Ona Chan has always appreciated beauty, art and things that are well made. When Ona was a little girl, she knew she wanted to go to Art School to be a sculptor. Her passion for fine forms lead her down many paths, but it all started in the plaza of Toronto City Hall.
“We used to go to City Hall in Toronto when we were kids. There is a Henry Moore sculpture there and I used to climb on it all the time. The sculpture inspired me and since then, I always wanted to make things that were beautiful and that people loved,” said Ona.
Ona intended to study Fine Arts, but her parents owned a clothing factory and she became interested in commercial design, leading her to study Design at Ryerson University. After school, she went to Hong Kong to put her degree to use. “It was the 90’s,” she said. “It was before people were talking about sweatshops and I found it very hard to be there in those conditions.”
She decided to make a career change and through a family contact Ona ended up landing a PR job with Louis Vuitton. “Back then, it was strictly a luggage company,” she said. “From there I went to Prada, then to Gucci as the South East Asian PR Manager.”
Ona’s personal journey eventually brought her to New York City. “I ended up writing for Elle Magazine, but 911 happened and I fell away from the fashion industry,” she said. It was after she had her daughter that she started to rediscover her love of sculpture again through jewellery. “I decided to do jewellery because I found that jewellery was like a tiny sculpture,” said Ona.
But, for Ona—like for many entrepreneurs—her work came with some self-doubt. “When I started carving in New York City, It was originally just for fun and just for me,” she said. “I kind-of lied to myself and said that I would just make things I like and if people buy it, great and if not I’ll have all this cool jewellery.” But, to Ona’s surprise, her jewellery did sell.
Ona moved back to Hong Kong and started making jewellery in small runs. She credits the places that she has lived and travelled to for giving her the inspiration for her designs. “The lattice collection was inspired by a trekking trip over the Himalayas,” said Ona. “We did a family trek along the tea horse trail and lot of cultures meet along this trail. I took elements of the lattice windows on that trip and I wanted to bring that to the jewellery.”
The Dress for Success Vancouver cause resonates with Ona because her sister has recently faced some difficult times. “My sister decided to get a divorce. It was an oppressive situation. She left with only what she was wearing,” said Ona. Compounding her sister’s difficult situation has been her family’s reaction, “There is a feeling in my family that you can’t divorce because it is culturally unacceptable.” Despite her challenges, Ona’s sister has been strong and resilient under very difficult circumstances.
Dress for Success so often supports women who are going through major life changes — like Ona’s sister. As an organization we empower women to thrive in work and in life based on our core values of Dignity, Inclusiveness and Hope.
Ona has paired our values with three of her corded lattice bracelets. For a limited time, $10 from every lattice corded bracelet will go to Dress for Success Vancouver. Each of these pieces is uniquely faceted and represents one of Dress for Success Vancouver’s core values.
Dignity | Pink: Enabling self love and of others
Inclusiveness | Blue: Accepting without judgement
Hope | Gold: Experiencing expectation and trust