Career Talk is a series where ATPB chats with women who have positioned themselves at the top of their industries about how they got there. This week we’re sharing our conversation with Christina Tung.
In today’s fashion climate, one has to wear many hats. Whether it’s running a business, being an influencer, or dabbling in publishing, everyone is juggling a number of different tasks and trades. The same can be said for Christina Tung, founder and CEO of public relations firm House Of and accessories brand SVNR. After being laid off during the height of the recession, she took some time off to travel abroad, collected herself, and returned to New York City with vigor to start her business House Of. Since then, House Of has been a liaison for smaller brands to get a foothold in the ever-changing landscape of the fashion world. With an approach to public relations that prioritizes community and familial interaction with clients, it comes as no surprise that designers such as Petit Kouraj and Kelsey Randall and accessories brand Senreve all call House Of home. In addition to juggling one career, on a rainy weekend in 2018, Tung founded the jewelry brand SVNR (pronounced souvenir) to encourage shoppers to connect with and remember their journeys and exemplifies the perfect marriage of travel, nostalgia, and luxury. Having created SVNR serendipitously, Tung describes every day as a learning experience and is still learning how to balance having two businesses and teams. “I don’t know that I can confidently say I’ve managed to balance the two businesses. It’s an everyday struggle and a testament to how great my team is”, she says when asked about juggling occupations.
All The Pretty Birds talked with the multitasking business owner about inspiration, brand ethos, self-care, and juggling two burgeoning businesses at once.
All The Pretty Birds: Thank you so much for talking with us. What inspired you to start House Of?
Christina Tung: I had been in fashion and accessories PR for almost 10 years at that point. When I got let go from my corporate position after eight years, I started freelancing and went to India for a couple of months. I got certified to teach Yoga, led english conversation classes with Buddhist monks and Tibetan refugees and met the Dalai Lama. It was a life-changing trip for me. When I came back to New York, I started House Of immediately with the understanding that it didn’t have to follow a traditional structure, but that I could build what made sense to me, in a way that made sense to me.
ATPB: What is the ethos of your brand House Of?
CT: House Of was founded on the concept of a collective community of industry talents. House Of is an incomplete phrase, indicating that we are incomplete without our designers. We’re here to amplify their messages, not as a separate entity, but to be incorporated into their team. Having worked in-house and at an agency, I wanted to be able to offer the best of both worlds; a holistic in-house relationship, while also offering tight-knit, familial-type support across the roster. Many agencies are named after principal founders, but I wanted this to be bigger, more encompassing than just me. I didn’t want the agency to be about me.
ATPB: Your public relations company House Of supports and represents smaller brands in the fashion market? Was that deliberate? If so, what was the intention behind the decision to nurture smaller brands?
CT: I wanted to take advantage of the ability to be able to choose who I work with. Having had agency and in-house experience, I felt well-suited to be a partner to independent designers. I do very much enjoy helping shape new labels but I would also love the opportunity to work with more established brands in need of a refresh and help to re-envision and gain relevance. I see so many opportunities out there and would love to be able to help brands navigate the space.
ATPB: You also started the lifestyle and jewelry brand SVNR, tell me about the inspiration behind it and how you have managed to balance having two very distinct businesses?
CT: I never meant to start a brand when SVNR came about. I was just messing around one weekend and a few friends posted about the earrings I made and it took off from there. I sent the info to a few editors and Monica Kim from Vogue asked for the exclusive which basically pushed me to launch the brand. I don’t know that I can confidently say I’ve managed to balance the two businesses. It’s an everyday struggle and a testament to how great my team is. I have a business partner and lean team of publicists that help keep House Of running smoothly. I work with contractors for SVNR who patiently keep me on track with paperwork and orders.
ATPB: How and where do you find inspiration?
CT: Some of my inspiration is from my personal travels and photos I’ve seen in documentaries, on Instagram, and friends’ travels. I work with deadstock vendors so I’m inspired when I walk into their spaces and see stones and beads that are really special and unique.
ATPB: Do you have a community that you lean on for support?
CT: I do have many friends and clients and my mom, who have their own businesses or their own stores. I also have friends in sales and editorial, so when I am stuck or just feel the need to talk things through, I know I have them to lean on.
ATPB: How important is community to your creative and entrepreneurial process?
CT: For me, I honestly don’t have so much time to talk through my process with people. Most of the time, I know what I need to do, it’s just a matter of managing my time to execute but knowing that I have resources to lean on emotionally is a huge comfort and really reassuring for me.
ATPB: What is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur? What is something you’ve had to overcome?
CT: The hardest part of being an entrepreneur, as cliche as it sounds, is perfectionism and trying to please everyone. Logically, we know that we can’t be perfect nor can we make everyone happy, but we still drive ourselves crazy to do it. I’ve been trying to let go [of that] just a bit and know that most of the time, getting things done is better than making it perfect. Also, having boundaries is ultimately better for everyone. Nevertheless, these are things I struggle with on a daily basis and some days are better than others. At a recent meditation [I attended]’ perfectionism, overachieving, and people-pleasing was discussed as an expression of insecurity that we’re not good enough as is, so our value is derived from what we are able to offer others. It applies not just in relationships but in the workplace as well.
ATPB: What is a piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to start their own company or brand?
CT: Ultimately, to really examine themselves, do they have what it takes? It’s a marathon and, at times, scary, anxiety-inducing, and really frustrating. It requires patience, open-mindedness, a DIY attitude, confidence, big-picture thinking, and detail-oriented ambition and drive to tackle all the things you don’t want to do. There’s no room for procrastination or bashfulness when starting your own company.
ATPB: Last question, is there space in your weekly routine reserved for self-care? If so, what is it and is it frequently implemented?
CT: There isn’t necessarily space, but I’ve been taking acting classes that allow me to have the freedom to express [myself] emotionally, without consequences. It’s helped me handle any social discomfort I would feel in certain situations and has changed the way I approach everyday interactions. I get out to play tennis every Sunday which is something I really enjoy but am not necessarily very good at… yet. I started going to a chiropractor/energy healer. To be honest, I’m still skeptical about how it works, because I don’t fully understand it, but I’m definitely feeling the benefits! Lastly, there’s a meditation called Dharmapunx, that I really enjoy going to, but when I don’t have the time, I’ll listen to the podcast. It’s something I have to practice every day. Some days are easier than others.
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