Retailer Report: Cooperativa’s Araceli Graham

by Ashley Baker

As e-commerce trends towards niche offerings that cater to targeted demographics, Araceli Graham has launched Cooperativa, which she’s dubbed “the gateway to Latin American luxury and lifestyle.”  The site sells wares from many brands, such as Trista, Julia Y Renata, and Children of our Town that are new to the U.S. market.  Graham has tapped Karla Martinez de Salas, the former market director of W magazine, to curate the site. Graham explains the project’s inception.

What is your professional background?
Before learning the tricks of the trade to introducing new and unknown brands to the United States, I held executive positions at Coca Cola, GlaxoSmithKline and Pegaso. As a result, I gained a deeper sense of the corporate world and since arriving to the United States 12 years ago, I’ve introduced and established designer Olga Prieto from Mexico and collaborated with Carla Forte and Mario Bucellati in introducing Prediletto to the American market. My knowledge of fashion-forward, high-end design combined with establishing emergent brands is what I find key in developing this business.

How did you come up with the idea for Cooperativa?
I’ve always been involved with creative people in Mexico, from jewelry designers to clothing and handbags designers, architects; furniture designers; and plastic art designers. I visit Mexico quite often and during one of my visits five years ago, I started to see a creative movement happening in my country. Attending markets, pop-up shops, art shows and collective events to see my friends showcase and sell their collections was not only an experience that made me feel proud of their accomplishments, it also influenced me to do the same, except share and express it in the United States. Since moving here, I’ve made friends from many other Latin American countries like Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina; it’s helped me realize that there’s a side to our Latin culture that is unknown to so many people. We’re always seen as ‘Cancun,’ ‘Cartagena,’ or ‘5 de Mayo,’ but there’s a whole other side to our culture; a more refined, sophisticated and cosmopolitan culture, and that is what I want to transmit through Cooperativa Shop. I envision getting this done in three stages: stage one consists of clothing and accessories, stage two consists of home accessories and emerging art and stage three consists of furniture.

When did you meet Karla, and how did you decide to team up with her on this project?
I’ve always loved Karla’s refined taste and have kept up with her projects and collaborations over the years. We have a couple of mutual friends and when I started working on Cooperativa, we were introduced to each other by The Creative NYC, and we connected instantly. Karla loved the concept of Cooperativa from the beginning; she understands the exclusivity of our products, and everything the business is about. I really couldn’t imagine a more qualified person to be our curator and I’m so excited to be working with her; we’ve been brewing so many great ideas together.

What are some of your favorite brands carried on the site, and what makes them special?
I love designers Yakampot, Trista and Sandra Weil from Mexico; Olga Piedrahita and Adriana Santacruz from Colombia as well, but I could never pick one favorite! We carefully curate from their collections and many of the things we offer from our designers are sold exclusively through our page. Cooperativa is going strong on its jewelry game and I love all of our jewelry lines; our countries and our designers are just so creative when they work with silver, gold and other metals.

How do you hope to grow the site in upcoming seasons?
We’re working hand in hand with a lot of designers in preparing them to showcase their collection(s) with Cooperativa Shop and we’ll constantly introduce new designers from other countries like Argentina, Chile and Ecuador to the page. As I mentioned earlier, we plan on adding new categories such as home accessories, furniture and emerging art in the future.

Do you have any fun events, collaborations, or initiatives in the works?
We have a lot of things in the works right now; from capsule collections for men and children, home accessories; pop-up shops; and a preview of an amazing book dedicated to Frida Kahlo. My team and I are very much looking forward to planning all of our future initiatives for 2016.


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