Welcome to My Life at Home, where we slow down for just a minute to share a glimpse into the lives of food lovers we'd love to get to know better. Kick off your shoes and get comfy!
"Fewer, better things" is the driving philosophy behind Cuyana, the San-Francisco-based fashion brand specializing in all the things you crave—like buttery leather bags and timeless closet staples in the most beautiful, versatile hues.
Theirs is a motto we here at Food52 can immediately identify with. Ours—"Eat thoughtfully, live joyfully"—certainly feels complementary, and the fact that both brands were founded by strong, passionate women (Hey, Amanda and Merrill!) makes Cuyana feel especially familiar.
That made chatting with Karla Gallardo, Cuyana's CEO and co-founder, even more exciting. She, along with fellow co-founder and CXO (Chief Experience Officer) Shilpa Shah, made their dream a reality after meeting in business school in 2011. Together, they developed a business model of selling directly available to consumers via e-commerce, which ultimately allowed them to offer premium products at more accessible prices. "We started Cuyana with the vision of creating a brand that inspires intentional buying through pieces that are crafted with integrity," Karla tells me.
The busy startup entrepreneur, fashion lover, and mom shares a 3-bedroom house with her husband and 3-year-old son in San Francisco. She gave us a glimpse into her home life, recalling her upbringing in Ecuador and how that inevitably shaped her vision for Cuyana. The company's name means “to love” in Quechua, in honor of the craftsman who made its first product.
HANA ASBRINK: Hi Karla, please tell us about yourself and the road to Cuyana.
KARLA GALLARDO: I grew up in Ecuador and moved to the U.S. to attend undergrad at Brown University followed by grad school at Stanford. Following college, I worked at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Banking Group, and I actually wrote about my idea for Cuyana in my business school application to Stanford. I then lived, breathed, and dreamed it for a few years while completing my studies and doing a brief stint at Apple post-graduation before actually bringing it to life.
Even though I was an applied mathematics major, I've always been a lifelong fan of fashion and started designing my own clothes in Ecuador from an early age because I didn't have access to the things I wanted to wear.
HA: How did you decide on "Cuyana" as a name for the brand? How did your upbringing in Ecuador shape your aesthetic and views on consumption and fashion?
KG: The name Cuyana symbolizes my love of fashion, travel, and giving back. I had a dream of creating essential pieces that every woman can wear and love forever, which is how we landed on the name.
When I moved from Ecuador to the U.S., I noticed American consumers had a lot more than I had in Ecuador and didn't seem as happy with those things. I like to connect with the products I purchase and want to help women do the same in their everyday lives. If things are made by incredible craftspeople with the best materials and have a beautiful story, people feel happy when they buy them—like they are investing in something meaningful.
HA: What drew you to your home and what is your favorite feature?
KG: The backyard and social areas definitely drew me in. My home has an open floor plan, which means big, light-filled spaces that make it perfect for having people over. I love throwing dinner parties for friends and family.
HA: Describe your decorating style. What are you influenced by?
KG: My decorating style is pretty minimalistic and modern. I like bright and open spaces with an uncluttered feel. Everything has to have functionality. I’m definitely inspired by the clean Scandinavian aesthetic, as well as by art. For example, we designed our main space around a piece we found during a trip to Australia at Aquabumps; it’s a photography studio of the beach during early morning. It sets a very calming feel for the rest of the space.
HA: Where can we find you on any given evening?
KG: You can find me at home—after I put my son to bed, I sit down with a glass of wine and my computer to finish up some work.
HA: What's your organizing style?
KG: I definitely apply “fewer, better things” when it comes to organization. I only keep things that have functionality and meaning to me. I do clean-ups twice a year where I discard and donate items that I don’t find use for or love. I also don’t store paper.
HA: If your walls could talk, what would they say?
KG: They would say that I would do anything for my family, and I am obsessed with work.
HA: How often do you cook and entertain at home?
KG: We cook for ourselves whenever we have time, which ends up being around two to three times a week. My husband does most of it! He’s a really good cook.
HA: What are your favorite sources of cooking inspiration?
KG: I like to try a variety of local cuisines whenever I travel. Seeing how people in different parts of the world prepare and combine many of the same ingredients is super interesting.
HA: What do you always keep in your fridge?
KG: I always keep a variety of cheeses, rosé, and oat milk for my morning lattes.
HA: What's your ultimate comfort food?
KG: Bread and cheese.
HA: Favorite Food52 recipe?
KG: I’m a huge fan of the Crispy Coconut Kale with Roasted Salmon and Coconut Rice. Combining the coconut with kale is creative and delicious—not to mention it’s very healthy.
HA: How do you recharge after an especially challenging week? What do your work days typically look like?
KG: I recharge by spending time with my family and friends. I love having get-togethers and enjoying the sun, music, and rosé with them!
On a typical day, I wake up at 6 a.m., and work out three times a week before breakfast. I spend about two hours with my husband and son in the morning to make and eat breakfast together, and then I’m at the office by 9 a.m. I arrive home at around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., have dinner with the family, and then work for a few more hours before going to bed. I’ll also travel about two to three times a month to New York, Los Angeles, Europe, or South America.
HA: Do you have a favorite Sunday ritual?
KG: I love spending the day in Wine Country; it’s beautiful. I also love having breakfast at Tartine, visiting the children's museum and park with the family, and having friends over for either lunch or dinner.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What do you think of Karla's cool, minimal home? Share your thoughts with us below!