Following the mantra “fewer, better,” Cuyana is hardly your average fashion brand. Founded in 2013 by Karla Gallardo and her business partner Shilpa Shah, the e-commerce accessories line focuses on quality over quantity and on getting back to basics as opposed to pushing product. The end result: A carefully curated selection of totes, sweaters, simple silk dresses, scarves, and small leather goods a.k.a. the building blocks of a perfectly packed suitcase.
In fact, Gallardo applies her brand’s less-is-more maxim to travel as well. “Fewer, better travel means applying the same philosophy of intentional living and thoughtful consumption to your travels. It means considering each aspect of the trip carefully and extracting the most value out of each moment, whether it's the initial packing or the journey or the actual destination,” Gallardo tells T+L. “It also means remembering that escape is essential to inform your everyday reality. Oftentimes, it's the adventures we take far away that have the most impact on our daily perspectives and how we live our lives.”
“Travel is incredibly important to my creative process,” she explains. “It gives me room to breathe and provides me with fresh perspectives. My days in the office are usually packed back-to-back with meetings, so it's often only during these trips that I can take a step back and think creatively. I get inspiration from the street style around me—especially in cities like London and Milan—as well as from the architecture, art, and culture of the cities.”
This fall, the brand combines its minimalist aesthetic with the luxury of Italian fabrics. “We've always had a strong focus on quality, but this Italian-focused collection has elevated us to a level that will set the precedent for all future pieces,” says Gallardo. “Leather has always been a key material in our essentials, but starting with this collection, we are working with the best Italian manufacturers, with the best Italian leather, in the world.”
Here, Gallardo shares snapshots of her recent trip to Rome, where she and the Cuyana team shot this fall’s campaign of polished coats, wool-cashmere sweaters, and sumptuous leather accessories.
“When we’re shooting, the days are jam-packed starting often from 4 or 5 in the morning. My team and I have tried to start enforcing small breaks—“fewer, better moments”—despite our hectic schedules. One break we took in Rome was simply walking along the Ponte Sant’ Angelo bridge, on the Fiume Tevere close to the Vatican."
“I have an incredibly talented and wonderful photo shoot team. We’ve all been friends, in addition to colleagues, for years. It makes each trip, no matter how packed or far, always fun as well, which is important. There’s always a lot of laughter.”
“I always travel with my Cuyana classic leather tote. It goes from plane to city so easily. It’s been with me to Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Scotland, Italy, and more! I always try to be available to my team in San Francisco no matter where I’m traveling, so I am on my phone and checking email frequently. However, I do try to take time to pause and let the beauty of my surroundings inspire me. Travel is one of my biggest sources of inspirations for upcoming collections. It has been from the beginning—Cuyana means “to love” in Quechua—and will continue to be.”