Jimmy K.W. Chan defies the business mogul cliché; he’s focused more on creativity than profit margins. “In fashion and design, you need to have a mix of commerciality and creativity,” he says, “but there is too much focus on the commercial. I would like to give artists the freedom to create first, and then build a business around that creation.”
Chan is the founder of the holding company Semeiotics, Inc., which has four separate partnerships under its umbrella. In Hong Kong, Semeiotics holds a graphic design and branding office; in New York, it runs and jointly owns a retail shop with a designer sportswear brand under Adidas; and in Paris, Semeiotics founded the fashion house Rue du Mail with legendary French designer Martine Sitbon. Chan describes Semeiotics as a platform that invests in talent to “empower creativity.” “I have always found the design process more interesting than the final product,” he says. By providing financial investment and managerial support to designers and companies that he admires, Chan hopes to introduce more quality work into the fashion and design industry.
Chan’s experience in fashion began when he bought into a Toronto boutique that brought together trendsetting fashion and music in a striking retail space. As Chan expanded the retail business, he noticed the profound effect that visuals such as ads and interiors had on customers. To harness that power, Chan applied to Parsons to study in the BBA Design Marketing program (now called Design and Management); he later transferred to AAS Graphic Design, earning a degree in that program in 2000. His career change and business vision were heavily influenced by his time at Parsons. “Parsons opened my eyes to design and my mind to new possibilities,” he explains. “The school helped me realize that the sky is the limit.”
Today Chan’s firm is developing services in interactive design and new media and working on collaboration software by Semeiotics Technologies, collections for Rue du Mail, and several projects with other firms and brands in the design industry. Chan has served as a visiting critic at Parsons and welcomes students to Semeiotics’ offices to help further his mission of empowering creativity—a principle he learned at Parsons and practices globally.