Fashion Can Be Different: A Q+A With the Globally-Minded Founders of Cuyana

Lonny loves an eco-conscious entrepreneurial spirit (see: our feature on Project Bly), so we were all too happy to chat with Cuyana co-founders Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah to talk about their gorgeous—and green—label.

Cuyana Q+A |
Cuyana’s mission in one sentence:
To empower individuals to shop purposefully by investing in classic, meaningful pieces created by artists around the globe, and to simplify their closets.
As editors, we respect the effort to distill product down to the very best few things—and that seems to be the driving force behind Cuyana. What makes a bag “the perfect bag" or a scarf “the perfect scarf”?
We believe the elements that make a bag the “perfect bag” or a scarf the “perfect scarf” are the production, the design, and the overall story. Our production is grounded in the highest quality, ethics, and sustainability: we work with suppliers in each country we visit to make the best collections possible, and we bring these collections directly to the consumer for previously-unattainable low price points. Our design is centered around a classic, luxurious and versatile style; our products transition from day to night and from year to year. They are the “finishing” pieces to a woman’s outfit, no matter their style. Our story is about finding treasures from around the world that become staples of each woman’s closet, so that she owns fewer, better things and consequently lives a fuller, richer life.

Cuyana tote |

Tell us about the “Lean Closet Movement”.
The Lean Closet Movement is a mission to create more intentional buying and to simplify one’s closet. We want people to focus on investing in key pieces that they’re always going to wear, and encourage them to take all those forgotten things that they’ve accumulated and gift it to others who can use them. We were inspired by all of the excess we see in the fashion industry, and all of the extra “stuff” we ourselves had accumulated; we discovered that by simplifying our lives and adopting this idea of a lean closet, we were able to live fuller lives.

There is clearly a strong international aspect to the brand, as each collection is inspired by a different destination. What's behind this effort?
Cuyana designs its collections in San Francisco, and travels the world to find the most premium materials and expert craftsmanship for the creation of its products. We have traveled to Ecuador for its straw, Peru for its alpaca, Argentina for its leather, Japan for its ceramics, Mexico for its color and embroidery techniques, and Turkey for its cotton and silk. We dedicate each season to a different country, and share the story of our travels and the making of our collections with our customers through beautiful photography and video.

Cuyana Q+A |
(All photos © Cuyana)
How would you describe the ultimate Cuyana girl?
She loves fashion and design, with an emphasis on simplicity and elegance. She purchases investment pieces for her wardrobe–like a Burberry trench, Tods loafers, a Cuyana leather tote–and shops intentionally, not mindlessly. She is globally-minded, loves travel, and cares about building a life of meaning through her actions and purchases.

What's next for the brand?
We just launched our first showroom in San Francisco’s Union Square, where customers can try on everything from our online store, and we are working on our fall and holiday collections. We will continue to feature a new collection inspired by a country each season, but we're working on building up a classic line based on our bestsellers (the Panama hat, the leather tote, the weekender bag, and the infinity scarf).

Great design in three words:
Less is more.
I'm the former Style Editor at Lonny.
Follow Us Everywhere