“Is that Chunks?” is a question that comes up in my life almost once a week: when I catch the brand’s technicolor claw clips in my friends’ hair, on store shelves or while scrolling through my Instagram feed. I even found myself asking stupidly while watching a vogue korea video with Blackpink’s Jisoo. She showed off a black and white plaid hair accessory, which happens to be Chunks’ best-selling product, and told the camera, “I really wanted it, so I waited a few weeks for it to come. shipped from abroad. . I have this in all colors.
In less than three years since its debut, Chunks – and its founder Tiffany Ju – have created a brand that has become an international conversation piece, an object of desire, and the North Star of this decade for modernizing the pliers trend. hair accessories from the 90s. Inevitably, it also spawned countless imitators, but more importantly, it made hair accessories fun and fresh again.
Through its cheeky, amorphous shapes and unexpected colorways, Chunks shows people how to express themselves beyond bold makeup and vibrant dyes, while proving that you can make products ethically and sustainably in China. In 2021, Chunks even surpassed one million sales, founder Tiffany Yu shares with TZR.
Yu knows better than anyone that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Before the days of TikTok and Instagram, Yu created ombre dyed tights which quickly went viral on Tumblr. Then people started ripping off the clear acetate Sun glasses she was doing so aggressively that she no longer felt like the idea was hers to begin with. Not one to get discouraged, she says, “It just means the things I do resonate with people.”
At the end of 2019, Yu started thinking about what his next big thing would be, and Chunks started to come together. Yu spoke to TZR from Chunks’ new Seattle warehouse to share how she took the business she started alone from her basement to a team of 10 supplying the adorable clips and barrettes to major retailers, as Urban outfittersand a dozen different countries.
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On the conceptualization of the pieces
“In 2018, I [realized] The nostalgia for the year 2000 and the 90s was going to be great. Personally, I wore a lot of hair clips back then, but I never found any cute ones in the US. You should get the plastic ugly ones from CVS or Walgreens.
“So I saw that gap, and everything about it made sense. No one else was really doing it, and I already had some overseas manufacturing experience with my previous company. The margins were good. , the turnaround; the price was great. You know, I didn’t have a lot of money to start with, but the minimums were really low. Chunks just ticked all the boxes. Early 2019, around March or April, that’s when I officially launched with a handful of styles from my house.
By choosing his memorable name
“When I started doing a mood board of what the Chunks would look like, a lot of my inspirational images were of artists making colorful chunks – like resin, melted plastic, or acrylic blocks with stripes I’ve always been into really fun color combinations and textures. All of 2018 I’ve been doing a lot of really brilliant textile art. So the name obviously came very easily – love it colored pieces.
On Chunks is hitting its stride in 2020
“I think I was lucky to have a great product for quarantine life. No one was getting a haircut and everything was down to size on Zoom. It was also a good price and something you could easily send to a friend or relative you hadn’t seen in a while.
“The Checker Claw definitely took on a life of its own and attracted a lot of people. It hit a good corner of fashion [meets] neutral but also fun and colorful. It was all of those things combined, so from 2019 to 2020, our business has grown tenfold.
On Chunks’ revolutionary manufacturing process
“[Plant fiber-based] acetate seemed to be the highest quality and most durable material for our clips. I have always been aware of the waste of fashion. I went to fashion school, and something that was always on my mind was to design as responsibly as possible, especially with plastics. Plastics are crazy and not as renewable and even less recyclable than you think.
“Also coming from the maker world, there was always this shame around things made in China. As I grew the brand, attended craft shows, and told people about it, it really resonated that I was so outspoken about making Chunks in China. It’s something we all have a knee-jerk reaction to, but we don’t really know why. Our facts are not updated.
“Chinese manufacturing is not a monolith. We try to make that a big part of what we represent. We want to be really transparent about what we do, where we produce and how we produce. We are not bothered by it. We pride ourselves on the relationship we have with our manufacturers because they are awesome.
“We do a custom-designed and stock acetate suit with the makers, and they put it all together by hand. I design the actual claw. For the Checker Claw, I knew [the manufacturer] Had this one in acetate which was a little checkered, but it was wonky and wavy. Initially I started with a slightly different shaped claw with their [original] model. When it was working really well, the controller started to get really big. Then I worked with our manufacturer to make this checker perfect. As soon as I had the pattern in the right place, I updated the shape. A few months later, I started seeing all the copycats.
Know that Chunks was more than a fad
“People were DMing me saying they met someone in the elevator in, like, San Francisco, wearing Chunks, and [that] they also wore Chunks. All those bonding moments were happening, and I still hear those [types of stories] now. It’s such a cool everyday moment to find your own and be brought together by an object you wear in your hair. Our social media manager and I make sure we communicate with everyone. I’ve had long, full conversations with people about stuff in DMs.
“I’ve always been into fashion and accessories, but it bothered me that they weren’t meaningful enough. These are frivolous things to do, but Chunks really brings joyful moments into people’s lives and helps them feel seen. It inspires those connection points, and that’s been really meaningful to me.
Seeing tracks on K-Pop stars
I’m Korean American, so it’s fun to see Korean artists, like Jisoo, doing cool, crazy shit. Growing up, there was a very conventional way of being. There’s still the doctor and the lawyer [career expectations], but it’s so amazing to see people doing weird shit. The Koreans have come so far economically. They are no longer in struggle, so this generation is so privileged. With privilege comes permission to express yourself and be weird.
On Chunks’ Next Big Launch
We are developing hair combs at the moment. But we really want to stick with hair accessories because it’s such a fun niche to play. Eventually we might expand to metal clips or different materials if we can find a sustainable way to do it.
Additionally, we have two upcoming collaborations. One is with this Seattle-based artist named neon salt water. She does some really cool digital art and interiors. We are also working on a collaboration with a California-based Mexican jeweler named Georgina Trevino. She does a lot of “pierced” pieces [Think modern metal earrings adorned with old-school barbells and belly button rings]so we make a claw line of pierced hair.
On Yu’s Dream Chunks Collab
Crocs! It would be fun to make big little Jibbitz.
You can check out Chunk’s current hair clip selection, which ranges from $5 to $24, at pieces.shop. If you need some shopping suggestions, here are some of my favorites.