Inside the Head of Charming Charlie

Jenny Johnson. Portrait Chris Brown. Art direction Michelle AviƱa
February 04, 2013

Charming Charlie, indeed. Meet a dashing Houston entrepreneur with global ambitions and a love of travel, Ernest Hemingway and sushi. Entrepreneur Charles Chanaratsopon founded accessories hot spot Charming Charlie in 2004 with a single storefront tucked away on Harwin Drive, and it quickly became a secret source for the on-trend, budget-conscious. Eight years later, Charming Charlie is no secret — if there isn’t already one in your neighborhood, there will be soon. Chanaratsopon now oversees an accessories empire of more than 200 stores across the country from his Houston headquarters, and has set his sights on making Charming Charlie an accessories phenomenon worldwide. Here’s how he gets it all done — and what he’s into when he’s off-duty.

On Houston as hometown and home base. It gives me a tremendous sense of pride to have Houston as our home base, having grown up here (high school: Episcopal) and being able to give back to Houston and Texas by creating so many jobs. Being a fashion company in Houston is a bit of an underdog position — but it keeps us humble and hungry for success.

Wish-list travel destinations? Heard you were in Croatia recently. African Safari, India or somewhere to see the Northern Lights.

What can you not live without? My daughter, Taylor. My BlackBerry, iPad and iPhone. My tennis racket.

Where is your dream location for a store? New York City and L.A., which are in the works.

Charming Charlie’s organization of items by color seems very prescient/progressive, with brands like J Crew and Kate Spade being so very much about color. Why does that model work so well for you? It’s something the customer understands. It makes it easier for our guests to shop.

Are you an art collector? What’s your latest acquisition, or what do you hope to acquire next? Somewhat … Elliott Erwitt’s photography was the latest acquisition.

I heard you have a house in L.A. Are you commuting? Yes, I spend my time between both cities with
a lot of domestic and international travel in between.

Who are you favorite clothing designers? Zara, Ralph Lauren Black Label, J.Crew, custom suits and sport coats.

How would you describe your personal style? Classic and slightly preppy.

Who are your heroes? My parents. They instilled a strong work ethic in me and taught me the importance of giving back to the community that has given so much to you.

What is your motto? Possunt, quia posse videntur: They can because they think they can.

Houston hangouts? Charming Charlie, of course. My home. I love The Houstonian; reading with my daughter, Taylor, at Barnes & Noble; enjoying my girlfriend Madelyn’s Thai cooking (with compliments to my parents); and dining at Tiny Boxwoods. 

Exercise routine? I’m really focused on healthy eating (just gave up coffee — cold turkey after 15 years!).
When I work out, it’s usually tennis, swimming and a bit of yoga.

Inspirational/influential books, movies or TV series?  Books: Great by Choice by Jim Collins (business) and The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway. Movie: Braveheart (for inspiration). TV series: HBO’s Game
of Thrones.

What is a typical workday? I’m an early riser, so I’m usually up around 5:30 am. I read business and fashion news for an hour or so and catch up on e-mails. I will work out or take Taylor to school if I’m in L.A. I hit the office by about 8:30 and am in and out of meetings most days, with whatever free time I have in the office spent visiting with merchandising, store operations or other departments. I host dinners with colleagues
fairly often. If I’m not doing that, then I like to end the day with some sauna and steam time at The Houstonian.

A perfect day off? It’s pretty difficult for me to disconnect entirely from work (actually impossible, but I don’t think of it as work; I love it). Work is what motivates me, so I’m usually catching up on reading or thinking about our long-term strategy. But since I’m not in the office on days off, I usually spend more time with Taylor. I’ve recently taken up golf (I desperately need those lessons), and sometimes I’ll grill out on my balcony.

Famed photog Terry Richardson filmed your recent holiday campaign. Why Terry? Terry’s ability to draw out and capture fashion in a fun and fabulous way really resonated with our brand. Not a lot of fashion campaigns feature imagery that looks fun, colorful and happy. That’s what we’re about, and he was a great partner to work with.