Product really is queen at Cuyana.
The company’s tagline of Fewer, Better Things is a maxim upon which the brand and business strategy was built: sell customers high-quality product at an accessible price point by sourcing materials from around the world. Cuyana cofounders Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah took two years to perfect the company’s supply chain before launching the business. They took advantage of shifts taking place in the market around 2010 when a new group of consumers appeared interested in better-quality, transparently sourced product and more and more factories were opening their doors to working with smaller brands in a bid to diversify their own businesses.
The company’s since built a loyal following of fans drawn to the company’s minimalist aesthetic as seen in everything from its totes, which can be personalized with monogramming, to its more recent entry into apparel with its silk blouses and cashmere sweaters.
The design rules are fairly straight-forward: “It has to mix functionality and beauty,” Gallardo said.
Safeguarding that branding largely comes down to consistency, with Gallardo confirming the company doesn’t discount. It wouldn’t make sense, after all, given the direct-to-consumer model already has a discount built in by cutting out wholesale, the chief executive officer pointed out.
The challenge as the company continues to grow, Gallardo said, is just “how many fewer, better products can you deliver” when the brand is based off the idea of less being more if pieces are of higher quality.
So what to add and when to add to the product assortment boils down to plenty of listening to the consumers. The company’s first version of its popular tote is a good example.
The first tote launched. Consumers later asked for a taller version with a zipper, which Cuyana delivered. This year saw the introduction of a new tote with a more robust material that can hold more. Next year will see the rollout of something to go inside the tote to address the need for organization within the bag. Sales of the new styles don’t cannibalize from the old either, Gallardo said. In fact, sales of older styles also go up with the launch of each iteration.
Investors have taken notice of the concept with Cuyana having raised some $1.7 million to date and having since also expanded beyond digital with a current door count of six. Balancing investors’ needs for a return on their investment, while not diluting the brand works with the right partner, the ceo said.
“We did a lot of work and it took us a long time to find investors that actually aligned with the business that we wanted to build,” Gallardo said. “So we’re not a top-line business. We’re a bottom-line business. We’re growing naturally and we’re growing rapidly. And that’s great, but we can actually stand on our own feet at this point. The investors that invested in us wanted to invest in a real business that lasts for many, many years.”