24 Minutes with Joe Chia and Melissa Deng on mixing love and work
Better in twos
Whether it's fashion designer couples or celebrity power duos who are the epitome of #relationshipgoals, they're proof that the idioms—two is better than one; two peas in a pod—are true. Joe Chia and Melissa Deng are no different. They're the co-founders of Malaysian-born, Paris-based label Joe Chia that has stockists in over 22 countries and counting, and the brand recently presented its #Chapter16 collection during Men's AW20 Fashion Week. Ahead of Valentine's Day, we spoke to the duo about working and living together, and their advice for couples who are planning to establish a business together.
How did you guys meet, and how long have you been (working) together?
Melissa: Joe had just had his first little workshop in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 2012. I joined the young company six months later during the second collection—Chapter02. It will be our seventh year working together this year.
What are your respective roles in the company?
Joe: There isn't a definite line as we're very much involved with each other's work, and we are each other's first assistant. But if we really need to pinpoint the differences, Melissa manages most of the operations of the company while I handle the more creative side of it.
What are some of the biggest challenges working together as a couple?
Joe: I actually enjoy working together. I think it's great when you can learn and grow together, explore, share thoughts, and inspire each other. My parents own a small family business, and I liked the synergy that they have. After seven years I think we understand each other's role quite well. Sometimes we learn something new on our own, and sometimes we analyse and solve problems together. But we are still individuals, and we take time to develop ourselves.
Melissa: We're both very different individuals—the good news is that we bring different eyes and skillsets to the table, which is great. There's bound to be disagreements, whether you're a couple or not. But it's all a learning curve, to work and live together.
How do you guys solve conflicts related to work?
Joe: We usually have conversations in the car before getting home. Sometimes it takes 30minutes, sometimes two hours or more. We communicate a lot to make sure everything is ok. Then we go home and live together.
Melissa: We talk about it a little later after the situation, mostly in our studio kitchen when we're on a toilet break or grabbing a snack. I've always believed that an honest conversation is important because everyone processes the same information differently. When we understand, then we can resolve.
On the other hand, what is the most rewarding thing about being partners at work?
Joe: We see and enjoy the most beautiful things together.
Melissa: I think we are both very much committed to our work, and we spend so much of our time in it. So, having someone who understands the ins and outs, the struggles and the joys, sail or sink, is reassuring. I also really appreciate the dynamics, taking turns to carry the load which in turn, keeps the ship sailing.
You guys have already been working together before your marriage in late 2018. Has being married changed the way you work?
Joe & Melissa: Not at all. Marriage hasn't changed the way we work.
Did Joe design your wedding dress? Tell us more about it.
Melissa: Joe draped the dress from start to finish with 100% silk organza and a silk lining. We wanted the wedding and the dress to be "us" essentially, and so we went through trying a couple of silhouettes and fabrics before we finally knew that this was the one. It was a busy couple of months with work leading up to the wedding, and thankfully we finished the dress just two days before the wedding.
What's next for Joe Chia (the label), and what's next for the both of you personally?
Joe & Melissa: Growing the business and expanding our clientele. Also constantly learning new things and experiencing new cultures while travelling to new places together.
What advice would you give to couples who are planning to establish a brand together?
Joe: Have more patience and communicate.
Melissa: Trust each other and encourage growth for yourself and for your partner.
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