Wednesday, July 15, 2015

BESSI

The fourth of six daughters, Bessi Chow knows a thing of two about working hard, people skills and being driven. From humble beginnings, working the family grocery store in Burnaby, British Columbia to outfitting Olympic athletes and polar expeditions, Bessi is more than just an involved mom of two and the "VP of Everything" as stated on her business card.

A natural leader and highly organized, Bessi organized her sibling's shift schedules in her parent's store at the age of nine. Born and raised in Canada, this Vancouver native took fashion design at  the Helen Lefeaux School of Couture while also working at Eaton's and Holt Renfrew. When her shift at Eaton's ended, she sprinted to her job at Holt's  which was  at the other end of the shopping mall. It was there she met a customer who offered her a job in their clothing company in Toronto. Her first response was ..”I have go home and ask my mother..”  After finishing her studies, Bessi moved. It was her first time east of Winnipeg, her first time going somewhere alone, and her first time on an airplane.

Working at Elen Henderson Ltd. In Toronto,  the "Cadillac of kids wear", Bessi honed her skills in clothing design, learned the intricacies of the clothing business from the cutting room floor to working with buyers and marketing. She learned the world of private label clothing and had her eye on the next stage of her evolution in the industry.

Buddies by Bessi was her own funky kid's wear line of clothing and gained an impressive following. She was often referred to  as, "The darling of the kid's wear industry" at the time.  During this time Bessi was featured on the daytime talk show - The Jenny Show, with other top  clothing designers. "I'd almost rather have died than be on that show. I felt I was so bad I wished the floor would open up and swallow me alive," she says, laughing about the nervousness of the experience. Bessi felt after two years she had to leave because she was burnt out and exhausted. After a comatose state of about 4 weeks and a first holiday in Florida, she resumed the working world and  joined Duvet Comfort.

Counting in her head back 25 years, she dates her association with her current company by the age of her car – a 24 year old BMW convertible, which was her gift to herself after designing and producing the first BMW clothing line. To this day, she still proudly owns the now vintage car. After two years, she  left Duvet and incorporated her own company, working from her home office, focusing on Corporate Accounts.  In that period, she finally slowed down long enough to get married and pop out a couple of kids (now grown, 18 and 20).

10 years later after her departure, Johnny, owner of Duvet Comfort, meanwhile had seen  tremendous growth and potential in his business but needed Bessi's expertise to realize the dream. "He called me, like every day to wear me down before I said 'yes', and agreed to return to work with him again," says Bessi....and “like a marriage, everyday there are challenges, but also many rewarding moments”.

Today, Bessi is focusing her efforts on the company's line of premium outdoor winter gear. The build quality of the -40 degree-rated clothing is exceptional and built to last. Outfitting a team to the South Pole was one of the tests for the Outdoor Survival Canada clothing systems she oversees. These particular parkas are rated to -60. Of note, everything is made in Canada, a fact she is very proud of.

BESSI FUN FACT: "I pop out a kid (her first), and when she was six weeks old, I got a call from Champion Canada," they were the official supplier of the Canadian Olympic Team. Champion asked her to design the  clothing for the Canadian Olympic athletes for the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.  She said...”uhhh..let me find a Nanny first..”.   "If you recall Donovan Bailey and the suits with the flames, that's me!”
For more information on the Outdoor Survival Canada line: www.outdoorsurvivalcanada.com




Bessi Chow in the facility where Outdoor Survival Canada line is hand crafted.                       PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Photo courtesy of Library & Archives Canada.
Sporting Bessi Chow's design, Glenroy Gilbert, Donovan Bailey, 
Bruny Surin and Robert Esmie win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Summer 
Olympic Games in the men's 4x100m relay.





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