Cuyana Celebrates “Fewer, Better Things” Chez Freemans

by Kristen Heinzinger

Karla Gallardo, Shilpa Shah

To kick off the season of giving, Cuyana hosted a holiday charity dinner at NYC mainstay Freemans last week. Guests channeled their inner Marie Kondo by donating a bag of clothing that no longer brings them joy as part of Cuyana’s Lean Closet Movement, which preaches the idea of “fewer, better things,” and donates “excess” clothing to charity. The recipient this year was nonprofit H.E.A.R.T., which helps provide fresh starts to victims of domestic abuse.

Karla [Gallardo] and I were inspired to do this because of the excess we had seen in the fashion industry, the extra ‘stuff’ we had accumulated that left us feeling more overwhelmed than excited, and the daily battle to sift through overstuffed drawers to find the pieces that we truly cared about,” co-founder Shilpa Shah told us. “Our hope, with Cuyana, was–and still is—to encourage individuals to shop intentionally, own fewer, better things and consequently live fuller, richer lives.”

After meeting up for cocktails at the Cuyana pop-up in Nolita, guests headed to Freemans to nosh on a pre-Thanksgiving comfort food spread of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, artisanal cheeses, roasted vegetables, and cookies. There, we had a tête-à-tête with Shah to discuss the brand’s ethos, best-sellers, and her closet staples….

What inspired the idea for Cuyana?
Karla and I started Cuyana hoping to fill a gap that we saw in the marketplace. The market was being dominated by two polarizing options: high quality yet exorbitantly priced pieces or affordable garments that weren’t made to last. We believed we could create a different type of company, which focused on timeless, meaningful, and high-quality products offered at attainable prices. Cuyana means “to love” in Quechua, and we had a dream to create pieces that every woman can wear and love forever. 

Tell us about the Lean Closet Movement…
It’s a challenge to live a life of fewer, better things through shopping intentionally, buying and wearing only what you love, and donating the pieces you no longer wear to those who need them. The message is not about minimalism; rather, it’s about owning and wearing pieces you love.

After creating your own “lean closet,” what are some favorites that remain?
A crisp white shirt, and a cropped, lightweight coat is a year-round essential. This year, we created a Cropped Trench Coat that I absolutely love and live in. A silk slip dress is also proving a modern mainstay in my wardrobe.

Where are Cuyana’s products manufactured?
Our straw products are made in Ecuador, baby alpaca in Peru, cashmere in Scotland, leather in Argentina and Italy, cotton in Turkey and silks in the US.

What are some best-sellers?
Our Classic Leather Tote—it never goes out of style, and if it’s crafted right, it will get better with age. Our Wool Cashmere Sweater is also a customer favorite…it is the ultimate source of warmth.

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