Cuyana's Quality Ethics Are What We Need In 2017

Cuyana's Quality Ethics Are What We Need In 2017

Cuyana's founders Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo, photo courtesy of Cuyana

Cuyana's founders Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo, photo courtesy of Cuyana

"Quality over quantity" is a phrase we often hear again and again from various clothing brands, being a better version of yourself also rings along with the familiar quote.

For Bay Area founded, Cuyana, less is always more and their many ways to dissect the closet shopper has 2017's clothing market on their heels.

Of course, in a world of fast fashion (where Forever21 can get runway to retail overnight), how does a budding "lean closet" movement bloom forth? Women (and men) shop in very articulate patterns that usually blind them to taste and quality. For Cuyana, high quality should be available at all price points, "Product-wise, we design essential pieces for the modern woman with the most premium materials and finest craftsmanship," they told us. With a round of angel investment, the two scoured the world, interviewing small workshops in various countries that specialized in a multitude of craftsmanship. They found Scottish cashmere experts, Turkish canvas makers, Argentine leatherworkers and Peruvians with deep expertise in Pima cotton.

"What you're looking at is a difference between factories that have grown through generations with expertise in certain materials versus larger factories that use a lot of machinery to make many materials," Gallardo says. "And that attention to detail is very important to keep a product pristine through the years."

For the two of them, education on the nature of products is key. "A lot of our customers don't understand quality," Shah says. "They might be aspirational buyers who shop at Zara. But they come through the door intrigued by our philosophy and they see the difference in our products, so they become educated that way."

The founders sourcing in Turkey, photo courtesy of Cuyana

The founders sourcing in Turkey, photo courtesy of Cuyana

So how does this simplicity start-up rise among competitors? For Shah, she says it's better for brands to show why the product is different rather than tell. The two have welcomed women into both their brick-and-mortar stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles while holding many lifestyle panels in their respective showrooms. Talking about business, materials, and other topics that the two share.

Five years on and Cuyana have secured three rounds of funding, and grown to over 40 employees.

Though for many customers, when they're used to buying items made in Asia at a much lower cost point, how did the gals convince their customer to pay more? Enter in their Lean Closet methodology. "With every Cuyana purchase where you select "lean shipping" at checkout, we will send you a reusable bag to fill up with items that aren't helping you live your most beautiful life," the ladies explained, "you mail the bag back to us (with the included shipping label) and through our non-profit partner, H.E.A.R.T., your donated clothing will be given directly to women who will be able to gain fresh starts through your generosity."

When the movement of declutter came about towards mid-2016, shoppers across the country started purging their closets of all brands promoting $2 - $5 dollar t-shirts. We're looking at you, F21.

For 2017, how do the two plan on moving forward with their brand that already commands the attention of so many savvy women? "We started Cuyana because we believe fashion can be different. We think it can be more fulfilling and more soulful," they explained, "In 2017, we are celebrating [Cuyana] "to love" through intentionality: whether it's clothing you love, travel you love, design you love, food you love, or more."

// 291 Geary St, 2nd Floor, Union Square, cuyana.com

Cuyana F/W 16 Lookbook, Photography by Danielle Moore

Cuyana F/W 16 Lookbook, Photography by Danielle Moore


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