We Wanna Be Friends With the Founders of SF-Based Fashion Label Cuyana


On June 18, San Francisco-based fashion label Cuyana—which has made a name for itself with tightly curated seasonal collections that boast effortless silhouettes and fine materials—launches the Bali collection for summer.

Since we’re not certified mystics, we swear this isn’t an attempt at a guided mediation. Imagine yourself wandering the terraced rice paddies in Bali wearing a cotton shirt dress, the very picture of a fashionista on a tropical island vacay. If the intense humidity and mosquitoes galore put a damper on the reverie, try instead a vision of yourself on a barefoot walk along the beach wearing short shorts and a flowing raw silk blouse. Ah, that’s better. These daydreams courtesy of Cuyana’s cofounders, Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo, who took time out of their busy day running a fashion empire to answer some very pressing questions. That’s why we wanna be friends with them.

These days we’re talking a lot about San Francisco stealing the spotlight from New York. In what ways is this happening?

Shilpa Shah: I think this is true, particularly surrounding the fashion start-up scene. One of the reasons we chose to build Cuyana here is because we wanted to be at the hub of where fashion, tech, entrepreneurs, and investors intersect. We love how interdisciplinary and collaborative the fashion/e-commerce scene has become in San Francisco. The city is also incredibly fresh, in a way that I think is unparalleled: Everyone is working together on the next big idea and fashion innovation.

SF fashion versus NY fashion. Do we have a lot to live up to?

Karla Gallardo: Yes, I think so. But SF is really carving out its place by leveraging technology and building on innovation. It’s also got an incredibly supportive fashion community, from bloggers to up-and-coming designers to established labels to fashion investors—that’s something we love and can’t live without.

We really appreciate Cuyana’s curated approach to fashion. Is there another label that inspired you to do this?

SS: A brand that really inspires us through their aesthetic and their mission is Maiyet. We love that they celebrate curation through global artisans and focus on making beautiful pieces with stories to match.

We’re loving Cuyana’s summer 2014 Bali collection. What can we look forward to in the fall?

SS: I can’t give too much away, but let’s just say we’re leveraging our leather expertise for apparel!

Lightning Round

Burrito or burger?

KG: Can I say Sushiritto?

Bi-Rite Creamery or Mitchell’s?

SS: I have to go with option No. 3, Ici in Berkeley! You can’t go wrong when ice cream is made by a former Chez Panisse pastry chef. 

Bike, walk, cab, car, or MUNI?

KG: A mixture of cab and car. I’m still somewhat of a NYC girl and I think it’s easy to stand on the street and yell, “Taxi!” I’ve adapted to using Uber as well.

Fort Mason or Dolores Park?

SS: Even though I love the parks in Oakland where I live, I have a soft spot in my heart for Dolores Park. There’s an energy there that’s unmatched anywhere.

Three words to describe your life in SF?

KG: Exciting, fulfilling, Cuyana!

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