Today's youth is eager to attain their dream job just after stepping off the graduation stage. For me, a very different journey built me into the entrepreneur I am today, and I don't regret one bit of it.
When I graduated in Hotel Management from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, I realized my love for hotel interiors and décor enticed my senses a lot more than managing them. And so began my love affair with décor. La Désirade was my first ever quaint furniture restoration workshop for interior design after University. 13 whole years into interior designing, I found my heart pumped in search of more.
I began working as a freelancer at Swiss women's magazine, Femina, to beautify the home interior section pages. In parallel, I explored my infatuation with photography and life as food prop stylist, laying out some alluring, eye-appealing tables. I perused my passion for capturing the essence of a product not only through photography but also with an added touch of graphic design through the incorporation of ambitious ventures, Coucou Clock Agency and Swiss cookbook-- Les Délices de Manuella. My learning curve never diminished.
I continued to keep myself abreast of evolving technologies, literally mugging up the InDesign and Corel Draws of the world. All this was accomplished while I brought up my two handsome sons. After 26 years of navigating in the visual communication industry and my children out of the nest, I packed my bags and boarded on an adventure to NYC at the age of 50.
My quest to know more helped me to pursue the Accessory Design Major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Just the touch at supple leather intrigued me instantly to continue my focus on perfecting the craftsmanship that strengthens and ensures the quality of this fine material. While a student, I dug up a Yves St. Laurent suede skirt I had purchased years ago for just five dollars at a thrift store. I let my creativity flourish and turned it into a bag. I knew right then and there that I had found my calling! For the next two years, I learned everything I could about leather, how to craft it, and designed line after line in the FIT workshop.
"The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came my way." Photo courtesy of Lioness
My inaugural brand, Samira Buchi New York is an orchestrated outcome of a serene marriage between my creative instincts and learnings at FIT.
You know as they say, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?" Hailing from a small town near Lake Geneva called Lausanne in Switzerland, I too, like many others, dreamt of living in the concrete jungle of the New York. Coming from a family of nomadic roots, my childhood revolved around the arts of big cities and the cultural diversities of the places we traveled. I remember visiting New York City in 1979, standing in the middle of a gritty SoHo street, and fancying that one day I would live here. This dream of living in New York never left me.
The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came in my way – from being an interior decorator to graphic designer to prop stylist to photography, not realizing it was carving and sharpening my artistic skill sets, inching me a bit closer to my dream.
And when I finally touched down here in New York and at the forefront of the Fashion Institute of Technology, my lust with the art wanted to relive the second innings of life as a newborn on a virgin unexplored territory. Starting afresh, I saw this gap in the entire accessories business where providing custom-made luxury pieces with functionality and simplicity did not exist here in the fashion capital of the world. This instantly motivated me to go back to school and learn the nitty-gritty of the acceptable and lovable art of New York.
Initially, I believed, as I'm more fluent in speaking French than English, I would come across as a naïve to people in this great city. What was supposedly a weakness in my head, turned out to be my strength. My way of living, my personal style preferences and a cosmopolitan touch to designing my products has in every way come to be loved and desired by many in the United States. This particular transition of thought really shaped my character in New York– to hone every ability with confidence & pride.
The men in my life brought out this confidence in me through their daily inspirations as a young girl and well into motherhood– my father as I grew up, and then my kids who grew up too soon to chase their dreams in Paris and London respectively. Their dedication and faith to achieve what they believe in have had an insurmountable impact on my life that motivated me to leave Switzerland and grab the opportunity of living my dream in New York at the age of 50, which happens to be in an itsy bitsy apartment.
My tiny shoe box type Manhattan loft in Chelsea is a soupçon of my vintage European style. You will find a sense of industrial and rugged vibes– a chariot layered table to store my cookbooks and other kitchen essentials, a dining table of metal feet with bar stools, a décor comprising of Omersa- handmade leather pig footstool from Liberty London, a collage of memories on wooden frame and an incredible view of the Empire State Building from sizable windows. Though I miss waking up to the snow-capped Alps, the New York City skyline is a constant reminder to never stop chasing my dreams.
I'm now working for myself—something many will never experience or fathom. It's like having a luxury of freedom with fear. But no one gets free lunches in life and as a 53-year-old woman with myriad experiences of life, I can certainly say that everything has its pros and cons – but what is constant is the learning. And the desire to learn should never fade!
Eboni K. Williams and Cheslie Kryst have a lot in common, as Iman Oubou Founder & CEO of SWAAY as well as host of the Women Who Swaay podcast puts it, "They're both badass attorneys, they're both from North Carolina and they've both competed in the Miss North Carolina USA pageants." And they also both took over our podcast on the most recent episode, straight from the headquarters of the Miss Universe Organization!
Cheslie is a successful licensed attorney who also happens to be the reigning Miss USA 2019, with plans to represent our country in the upcoming Miss Universe competition. Not only is she at the height of her pageant power, but she is using the notoriety to create positive change for all of the women in her life, much like her role model Eboni K. Williams. Williams is a journalist, author, attorney and speaker; from her long history as a pageant queen she has risen through the ranks of male dominated industries from law-firms to Fox News. All throughout her journey she has persevered with intelligence, tenacity and poise. Lucky enough for us, she has kindly put her reporting skills to use and got candid with Ms. Kryst about supporting their fellow women, the current state of race in America and their history together as pageant compatriots. All of these topics are incredibly close to their hearts as powerful black women using their influence to create a better future for all women in America.
Oh and, as previously stated, both are complete and utter badasses.
During their podcast takeover they talked about it all, from pageants to politics. It's clear that both of these women are motivated by an altruistic spirit and are strong supporters of #womensupportingwomen. Eboni even read a passage from her book, Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success, in which she outlines how her own career trajectory was so positively affected by the incredible women who mentored her in different stages of her life. She completely shuts down the idea of the "woman on woman teardown," calling it a "pitiful dynamic" tied to the "long and very hurtful history of women." This idea that in order to compete for a spot in the old boy's club, women must first fight off their own gender is not only reductive but it also supports an outdated social structure that was built to greatly favor male success. Throughout history women have been encouraged to look at one another as competition, one more obstacle to pass by. However, all that has managed to do is to pit us against each other, fighting for the few meager seats at the table allowed for women while we ignore the real problem. The problem isn't about the lack of seats allotted for women; the problem is that men are still the ones making the seating arrangements, and it's time for that to change, something that both Cheslie and Eboni understand well.
Race is another topic that is incredibly important to both of these women, and they have quite the in-depth discussion on it during this podcast. Cheslie, who is biracial and self-identifies as black, laid out her point of view on race. She voiced her frustrations for never feeling like she had her own box to tick, being stuck to decide between "black, white, or other" in standardized situations like the SATs. Existing as someone stuck between two cultures has been incredibly challenging, and though she found some solace in the black community, she felt less welcomed by her white peers. Self-identifying as black is something that has allowed her more agency in regards to her own identity, and though she still faces difficulties she realizes how important it is to be a confident black woman in the esteemed position she is currently in. Both Cheslie and Eboni seem to bond over the idea that no matter the successes, they both revel in the victories of their fellow women of color. Each of them is motivated to see more women of color in powerful, visible positions to inspire future generations. It's not about their own success; it's about respect and renown for any and all women of color.
I may have just provided the highlight reel, but the full conversation shared between Cheslie and Eboni on the Women Who Swaay podcast is a must listen. These two women managed to make me laugh while restoring hope for a better America all within a half hour of listening time! Seriously, go get those headphones, right now. You will not regret it.