Viewing entries tagged
design

Karla Gallardo, Cuyana Co-Founder

Comment

Karla Gallardo, Cuyana Co-Founder

Name: Karla Gallardo

Title: Co-Founder, CEO

City: San Francisco, CA

Passion: Fashion

Website: www.cuyana.com

Watching my friend Karla going from dreaming of an idea to turning into a fashion power brand in a couple of years has been beyond impressive. Along with her co-founder, she built Cuyana, an online women's fashion and accessories line that lives by the motto of "fewer, better things." Worn and endorsed by the most influential bloggers out there, Cuyana means “love” in Quechua. Started with a $20,000 loan and handwoven panama hats made by craftsmen in Ecuador, in fact I helped Karla one time sell the hats at a fair which was one of my favorite things to sell, Cuyana now offers upscale fashion essentials including caps, blouses, dresses and leather bags. We caught up with Karla at Cuyana's flagship colorful and gorgeous store in Union Square San Francisco, and spent an hour watching her work with her team, plan the next collection and hearing her story. 

Photos by Elle Wildhagen

On Passion

How and when did you find your passion?

I have always been interested in fashion - growing up in Ecuador, I loved to study fashion design and make my own patterns and clothes in my free time. But it was when I was working in investment banking in NY after college that my passion truly solidified. I realized that I was using all of my free time - which was very limited with typical banking hours! - to either read fashion magazines, study what the designers were doing, or go shopping and touch and feel clothes in person.

On Transition

elleathome-9.jpg

Tell us more about the transition from your traditional job to your Passion.


The analytical skills I gained in investment banking gave me a great foundation to pursue starting a fashion brand. Then, going to business school awoke my more creative side and enabled me to fully transition -  I actually wrote my business school application on Cuyana!

On Mastery

How do you hone your skills?

For me, honing my skills involved mainly traveling, reading, exploring culture, and absorbing everything around me - but also, going to business school to learn how to start a business. This was key.

On Failure

What is failure to you, and how do you deal with it?

When I was at college at Brown University, I was right next door to the Rhode Island School of Design. I really wanted to move into fashion and thought the designer route was the only way to go, but I quickly discovered it was too late for me to switch to RISD. This was devastating at first, because I thought it was my only chance; however, I learned later that I could still enter fashion, just through the business side - which was perfect because it was where my skills were.

On Fear

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear, especially in the beginning, was letting go of a high-paying job and the security of an established career.  However, the network I’ve built from friends and family, business school, etc and being surrounded by people who believe in me has really helped me overcome this fear.

On Money

Was there a time when you were running out of money? 

Yes - when I first started Cuyana, I was bootstrapping in the most literal sense of that word: I was working from my living room, I had money only for rent and food, I was starting a fashion brand but I didn’t buy clothes for a year. However, I was still driven - I think being part of a community of entrepreneurs that were doing the same thing truly helped.

On Self-Love

What is self-love to you? And how important is it to your journey?

A couple years into starting Cuyana, after working nonstop and pulling countless all-nighters and completely neglecting my personal life, I realized I had to take care of myself. Taking the time to care for myself every once in awhile is important - and I discovered I was able to enjoy and appreciate my work much more. My main outlets are spending time with friends and traveling. Traveling, in particular, allows me to get away from desk and think and be inspired.

On Inspiration

Who inspires you and why?

My dad for his tenacity and drive. I am also inspired by all types of creators: from architects to designers to chefs. It doesn’t have to be specific style of art; simply seeing beauty created, and learning from the people who make beautiful things, inspires me.

 

On Support

Are there mentors that support you? Who are they?

I have several mentors from Goldman Sachs, Stanford; I enjoy having different mentors and leveraging their respective expertise for different things - whether it’s honing my leadership skills, fundraising, building culture, etc.

 

Advice to the Community

Please share a piece of advice with our community of men and women who are looking to leave their traditional jobs and live their passions.

There will be many unknown variables as you embark on the journey of doing what you love, so I would advise to plan the variables you can control - for example: planning out your finances as well as your personal life - because a lot of things around your job can be very volatile.


Share a fashion tip with us


My fashion advice would be to invest in key essentials (for ex: a classic blazer you love, a tailored white shirt, a pair of jeans that fit well) … and, you can never go wrong with neutral colors, especially navy - which I think is slowly replacing black as the go-to neutral!

 

 

Comment

Joanne Hayek and Tatiana Fayad, Founders of Vanina

Comment

Joanne Hayek and Tatiana Fayad, Founders of Vanina

City: Beirut, Lebanon

Passion: Spontaneity 

Websitehttp://vaninadesign.co/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VaninaDesign

Since the day I discovered Vanina jewelry at a small boutique store in Beirut, I have made it my ritual to buy a collection of the colorful and soulful pieces every time I visit Lebanon. Two years in, I was buying in bulk for a group of my American friends in the USA who fell for the brand. Besides the pride of wearing creations of Lebanese "badass" female entrepreneurs and designers, I am particularly proud of the craft of the work of Joanne and Tatiana, who hand make most of their creations in their atelier in Lebanon. When I asked Joanne and Tatiana about their dreams their Vanina they both smiled at each other and responded: "To become an established brand and open flagship stores in major cities, while keeping the social aspect of giving back to Lebanon." And that we have no doubt is going to happen.  

 

On Passion

L1000581.jpg
Designing jewelry came very naturally, almost without us knowing it. When we were hanging together as kids, we always used to create stuff. We realized we had that capacity as friends to co-create, and we knew we wanted to do something together.
Once we finished school, we started working on a line of t-shirts. In 2007, we picked it up again, starting the first line with old coins. We started doing it for ourselves as a hobby, when we were both at university. Then we thought, why not create a brand? Tatiana’s mom has a shop, so why not launch our t-shirt line as a brand? From then on, it took off.
Bringing in Lebanon comes naturally. We have an attachment to the city of Beirut and the country. Our inspiration is both Lebanese and international.

On Mastery

L1000547.jpg
At some point, it got tricky. We started having responsibility, yet we needed to stay dreamy and spontaneous. You learn to structure your creativity and put it within the structure. Enjoying the work is important. We try to enjoy it for ourselves before others.
We still do the samples. It is intentional, to boost our creativity. There are steps that are mechanical, such as laser cutting. Doing the handicraft steps ourselves makes us realize things we didn’t originally realize. You have another feeling with the piece when you do it yourself. 95% of our products have hand work related to them.
We did not study jewelry making or designing.

On Transition

L1000479.jpg
From the beginning, we said we weren’t making it for the money. We would not have gotten to where we are at today if we did not take it seriously.
Each of us put in $100. We continuously reinvest in the growth of Vanina.

On Failure

L1000671.jpg
It is hard to notice when something that happens is a failure. Because failure is making us stronger; it shapes us. At the beginning of our journey, we benefitted from beginner’s luck. Every project was a success. However, as you progress, you have to start to think ahead. And since we are very spontaneous, we, for example, participated in events we should not have. But we always took each mistake as a learning.
We learn from every experience. We take small steps so our failures are small.

On Fear

L1000269.jpg
We’re much more afraid than we were before. Previously, we had university responsibilities, and Vanina on the side. But now Vanina is a business. And we want to make it grow. Our biggest fear is that we can’t be based in Lebanon. Production and sales are done in Beirut. We focus a lot on exporting, since we can’t depend solely on the Lebanese market. However we want to keep creating in Lebanon.

On Money

L1000396.jpg
We’ve known good times and bad times. We dream big, but live the dream in small steps. This helps us reduce financial risks and take measures accordingly. I have to confess we’ve had times when we had to tighten our living expenses to the benefit of our company’s growth, however looking at your business as your passion allows you to make sacrifices you wouldn’t have done for other professional purposes.

On Self-Love

L1000645.jpg
We’re learning to be disciplined. We used to not sleep before, but now, we are trying to balance our lives. It is important to have our weekends and our escapes for creativity and inspiration. We do yoga; Joanne does horseback riding. We also go on hikes in nature.

On Inspiration

L1000151.jpg
We’re not inspired by specific people. We’re inspired by Beirut and the Lebanese culture. Beirut is a city of surprises. There is an energy; you feel it. It is working in its own way: the streets, so much history that you discover spontaneously, the artisans we work with.

On Support

L1000437.jpg
We are surrounded in support from our families. We have the same vision.

Advice to the Community 

L1000615.jpg
Enjoy the process more than the outcome, believe in the project from the beginning. In any creation, keep trying, keep iterating until you get it right. You will get there. There are a lot of projects we could have abandoned if we did not keep trying. When you have a vision and you trust it, don’t stop.

Comment