By Sandy Leung
BYMUN is a handmade clothing and accessories Etsy shop based in Sacramento, California. Started by Carmen Cheung, a native of Manhattan, New York, who was inspired by her mother’s comfortable handmade clothes and colorful style. BYMUN stands for Be Your Most Unique Nature, an acronym that Carmen has created to encourage others to be themselves and dress in ways that express their true nature.
The online shop offers a wide variety of themes and fabric patterns including whimsical skirts and accessories, such as button earrings, headbands and zipper pouches, in bright and colorful pastel shades. She focuses on women's clothing, with some options for young girls and pets as well. The shop features items that are perfect for holidays, like Halloween and Christmas.
One of my favorite items in her shop include this playful and adorable skirt with a hipster fox print; it also has two useful pockets on the sides, unusual for skirts. There is even a matching headband and button earrings too! An example of her great attention to detail and superb craftsmanship is shown in this custom donut checkbook, Pokemon themed toiletries bag and keychains.
Carmen is a promising young entrepreneur and talented clothing designer whose colorful, unique and expressive style will brighten your day and bring a smile to your face. She is participating in the Etsy Small Business Contest at a chance to win $10,000 grand prize to help fund her business. Support small businesses & vote for Carmen Cheung’s shop BYMUN below:
The deadline for the Etsy Small Business Contest is April 6th, 2017:
VOTE FOR CARMEN CHEUNG / BYMUN HERE
Interview with Carmen Cheung, Founder of BYMUN
1. What inspired you to start this shop?
The inspiration came from my mother and sister. My mother used to sew clothes for me (actually still does, sometimes). My favorites were the shorts with the fun prints that she sewed for me when I was younger. They were so comfortable and colorful! As an adult, I realized that I missed wearing clothing that was playful and comfy. My sister had an Etsy children’s clothing shop at the time, which gave me the idea to start my own.
2. How did this shop get started?
I missed the clothing I used to wear when I was younger; they were colorful, comfortable and bold. It saddened me to see how my adult wardrobe was so dull in comparison. Surely, I couldn’t have been the only adult who felt this way! This feeling in combination with being unemployed, sparked the idea to sew my own clothes and start an Etsy shop. I couldn’t find any job postings that genuinely interested me and I couldn’t figure out why until I had the idea for BYMUN. It was then that I realized this was what I was looking for; this would make me happy.
3. How did you come up with the name "BYMUN"?
“文”, pronounced phonetically “Mun” in Cantonese, is the last character of my Chinese name. My family usually calls me Mun, as opposed to Carmen. It became a term of endearment for me. When I hear Mun, I think of the love my family has for me and how I can be my naturally crazy, silly self. I thought of the name “BYMUN” to represent that it was personal to me and my items were made from the expressive side of me. I wanted my shop to encourage others to stop wearing plain clothes if they really wanted to wear colorful ones. So from the initial shop name, I created the acronym “Be Your Most Unique Nature”. Simply put, just be yourself. If you want to wear pants with foxes on them, then go ahead!
4. What inspired you to get into sewing and dress making?
My mom inspired me to get into sewing. She is the inspiration for most of my creative endeavors. I learned how to sew from my mom, along with other skills like crocheting and knitting. I started out BYMUN with the intention to make shorts but early into the business I decided to make skirts as well. I actually enjoy making the skirts a bit more and started focusing on making more of them.
5. What influenced your personal style and the patterns and prints that you choose for your shop?
I would have to say the fun printed shorts that my mom made for me when I was younger influenced me. The most memorable pairs are my flamingo and cow print shorts. I loved them! They were so much fun and they were special because my mom made them for me. I knew that they were unique and couldn’t be bought anywhere else. I just naturally like prints that are out of the ordinary. When shopping for fabric to use, I just pick what stands out to me.
6. What makes your handmade clothes and accessories so unique?
What makes them unique are the prints I choose and how everything is put together. The prints I choose are fun and playful, nothing you would find in a typical retail shop. And with a retail shop or a big company, the work is usually passed along through many people. Here, I do everything on my own. I choose the fabrics, wash them, iron them, cut the patterns and sew them. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so sometimes sewing can take longer than usual. But I know my customers appreciate the time and care I put into my work. They also know, they can contact me directly with any questions, comments or requests; another advantage over bigger retail shops.
7. What are your best sellers and why?
I’ve sold more earrings than skirts. Earrings are pretty much a one size fits all, which makes them easier to purchase as gifts.
8. What is the philosophy of your business?
I want to encourage people to dress and accessorize however they want to. We often get judged and judge others when we think they’re wearing something that is ugly, weird, or out of style. I want to discourage this type of behavior! There have been times in the past when I chose to wear something more neutral over something printed or colorful; the choice was made based on societal pressures and comments made by friends. But I got a little older and bolder and realized how silly it is to hide something as innocent as liking colors and prints!
9. What is the biggest challenge for your shop so far?
Getting the word out about my shop has been difficult. Also, as a first time small business owner, figuring out how to effectively use social media has been quite a challenge as well! There’s no pressure when using those platforms on a personal level, but as a business, there are so many questions. For the most part it’s hard for me to get actual true engagement. I feel a lot of times people just want followers and don’t really see the content.
10. How will you use the prize money if you win the Etsy Small Business Contest?
If I win, I would use the money to buy more fabric. Right now I can only buy a little at a time because of limited funds. I want to offer a variety of prints and be able to make more than one or two skirts for each fabric, but doing so is quite costly. If I’m able to purchase more fabric, I would like to make some shorts again. I would also like to use the money to upgrade my sewing and overlock machines, as well as my packaging supplies, business cards, labels and stickers. I may even take some sewing classes to further improve my skills, one can always learn more!
11. What is your long-term goal for ByMun?
I currently love what I’m doing. I have never said that before about any job I’ve ever had. I hope that BYMUN will continue to grow and keep encouraging others to be true to themselves. If it’s in your nature to dress yourself in bright colors and patterns, I say don’t be shy and just go for it!