Studio Visit: Calleen Cordero

 
Photos by Jeff Cornejo 
 

In the 1970s, North Hollywood was a cottage industry for hand sculpting wood bottoms for shoes.

 

Though the industry shuttered, Calleen Cordero has been reviving this lost art for the past 17 years, and we've been proud to carry her wares for much of that time. Her artisanal ethos defines every element and process that goes into the creation of her shoes, bags, and belts. We visited her Los Angeles factory to glimpse the remarkable, sustained craftsmanship behind her brand.

Each part of Calleen Cordero's shoes—from the outsole to the insole to the heel—is meticulously handcrafted; a single pair can pass through up to 36 pairs of hands over the course of its production. Above, in front of a wall of stencils, an x-acto knife is used to cut a piece of suede. All leather for the shoes is cut using the custom stencil for a size and style. 

 
  
Calleen's signature studded ornamentation—shaped in wide array of geometric and natural patterns—is comprised of solid nickel and brass studs, each of which is kick-pressed in by free hand. The exact amount of pressure must be applied to embed each stud; not enough pressure and it doesn't close, too much pressure and the leather rips. 
 
 
Once a piece has been riveted, the rear is covered with an additional piece of leather. Here, a belt receives its backing. Afterwards, edges are hand trimmed and burnished.
 
 
Shoes are given a test run on the factory floor, and Calleen will often take part. On the right, a new strap across the front of this particular pair of sandals was judged too tight and sent back for stretching. 
 
 
Calleen says her goal from the beginning was to create an environment that felt like a home for her employees. Many of the artisans who work for Calleen have been with her since the brand's inception. 
 

Shop Calleen Cordero

 
 
June 29, 2017 by Will Frazier

Beauty Spotlight: Herbivore Botanicals

 

Meet Julia Wills and Alex Kummerow— the founders of Herbivore Botanicals, which began in their Seattle kitchen 6 years ago and has quickly become a standout brand in the natural skincare landscape. 

 

Herbivore's formulas are pure and highly concentrated; every ingredient is included for a specific, therapeutic reason. From French pink clay to Brazilian gemstones, Herbivore's treatments combine essential vitamins, minerals, and botanicals to restore skin to its optimum health and vitality. 

Julia and Alex also craft their offerings with a little indulgence in mind. They believe daily bathing and skincare rituals should be enjoyable. Thoughtfully designed packaging and seductive scents, colors, and textures enforce this mission. We spoke with Julia and Alex about their dynamic brand. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about your background and how Herbivore was born?

 

Julia: We are a married couple who started Herbivore from our kitchen 6 years ago. At the time we started we had just moved in together. Neither of us had the intention of starting a business. We just realized that we had a lot of fun making things together and Herbivore was born. We are both really interested in design and have always had just as much fun designing packaging and styling photographs as formulating products so I think that gave us a strong brand identity from the start. 

 

What does your working relationship look like? Are your roles clearly differentiated or is it always pretty collaborative?

 

Alex It’s definitely very collaborative - we rarely work on our own. We are both very passionate about the brand and naturally talk about it all of the time since we are always together. It’s great. There is no business formality that needs to exist between us and no judgement with even the craziest ideas. We can just be hanging out in a park chatting and we may come up with our next big idea. 

 

 

 

What do you find is the most versatile ingredient across your products?

 

Alex: Jasmine essential oil. Julia thinks everything is better with Jasmine and I agree!

How do you all spend days off?

 

Julia: We love being outside and in the sun. Living in Seattle that can be tough in the winter time. So, we fled to Kauai this winter - we’ve pretty much been living here for the past 3 months just soaking it up. We do a lot of beach days. 

 

 

 

Which of your products do you all use most often?

 

Alex: We use them all, but the one we use most is probably Rose Hibiscus Face Mist. We go through it like crazy, it's pretty hard to keep it in stock around our house. 

 

Who would play each of you in a movie?

 

Alex: Brad Pitt, circa Legends of the Fall, of course.

Julia: Julia Louis-Dreyfus 

  

Your line seems to have grown steadily since you launched in 2011. What’s on the horizon in the next few years?

 

Julia: Natural cosmetics is on our horizon and of course, more skin care!

 

Shop HERBIVORE

 

April 11, 2017 by Will Frazier

Beauty Spotlight: Nuori

 

When NUORI’s founder Jasmi Bonnén started looking into the shelf lives of cosmetic products, she was surprised to find numerous studies documenting that commonly used active ingredients, such as vitamins, are unstable in cosmetic formulations.

  

"NUORI was born from the ambition to bring the ideal of freshness into skincare. This ambition sets the bar for all aspects of our concept," Jasmi explains. 

All NUORI products are freshly blended in small batches every 12 weeks in the laboratory in Denmark. Premium protective packaging minimizes exposure to air, light, bacteria and mold before and during use. Furthermore, all products are stamped with two dates: a Start-Using-By Date and an Expiry Date. The first date tells consumers when to start using a product, at the latest, in order to benefit from the optimum freshness and efficacy of the formula. The second serves as a reminder of when a product should be replaced by a new, fresh one.

This level of freshness brings with it two distinct advantages. It means that active ingredients are not weakened by time-related breakdown. And it allows the products to be extremely pure – 100% free from synthetic preservatives, colorants, and fragrances, as well as other chemicals normally used to stabilize the efficacy and consistency of skincare products over time.

We are thrilled to be one of eight stores in the States currently carrying this singular brand in our recently launched beauty section. Learn more about NUORI and its founder Jasmi in our interview below. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about your background and how NUORI was born? 

 

I started my career as a management consultant working for consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies. Then I joined L’Oréal and this is where the idea for my own range of fresh skincare was born. At the time we were implementing the new European rules for labeling of cosmetics. One of the new requirements was that all cosmetics should have a visible expiry date. But there was an exception to this rule, which stated that if a product had a minimum durability of more than 30 months (i.e., 2.5 years or more), it did not need to have an expiry date. Not surprisingly, these 30 months quickly became the industry standard for shelf life.

As I started reading more about the effect of time on cosmetic formulations, I became convinced that there was a need for a fresh skincare alternative on the market. Two years ago, I finally gathered up the courage to quit my comfortable corporate job and take the frightening leap into entrepreneurship.

 

 

 

In the context of the beauty world, NUORI’s approach to freshness is pretty radical.

You’ve explained it as analogous to consuming fresh food — more nourishing with fewer additives. This suddenly makes it seem like a no-brainer. Do you think we’re moving in a direction where demand for seriously fresh skincare products will become the norm?

 

I truly hope so! We’ve seen it happen in other industries - who buys canned peaches, orange juice from concentrate or UHT milk anymore? So why shouldn’t we demand the same from our skincare? Like you say, freshly bended formulas just make more sense, since they offer higher efficacy of ingredients and purer formulas.

 

What does a typical workday look like for you? How do you spend your days off?

 

I currently split my time between New York, where our family lives, and Copenhagen, where NUORI is headquartered. In New York my days start with the school run and cup of coffee followed by Skype calls with NUORI team members in Europe. Then I usually spend a few hours on administrative tasks. In the afternoons I meet with my US team, or concentrate on R&D. Although we work with a professional product development team consisting of chemical engineers and lab technicians, I am very involved in the whole product development process. I draft briefs for all products, evaluate and refine formulas, approve ingredients, and test all laboratory samples on myself (and my family members) before they are sent to independent testing.

In Copenhagen, I spend long days at the office, meeting with team members, drafting sales and PR strategy and reviewing operational plans. When in Denmark, I also always make sure to have time to visit the laboratory and production facility.

 

My days off are spent together with my husband and our two boys, aged 8 and 11. A normal Saturday would start with a long family breakfast and then some quiet time with a cup of coffee and my newspaper. Then we’re off to soccer practice and followed by a quick visit to either Whitney or the New Museum. In the evenings we love to have friends over for a home-cooked meal and glass of wine.

 

 

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

 

When I was growing up our family lived in Africa where my father worked with development aid. He taught me to always take the high road, even if it meant working harder, facing skepticism or obstacles. In the end the most valuable asset we have is our integrity.

 

What’s on the horizon for NUORI? Are there plans to expand the line? Or keep it small and focused?

 

I am big believer in simpler living and think that most people’s beauty regimes (and bathroom shelves!) are in need of serious decluttering. So we are not interested in developing a large, complicated product assortment for NUORI. Rather, we wish to extent our range with selected, smart treatments that can be integrated into professional facials, or used at home to boost a daily skincare routine. We are also constantly looking out for new, innovative packaging solutions that will not only protect formulas, but also make products easier to use.

 

Who would play you in a movie?

 

Eddie Redmayne. His performance in the film Danish Girl blew me away. Part of the film was actually shot on the ground floor of the historic building in Copenhagen where NUORI’s headquarters are. So he’s already familiar with my neighborhood, and his cheekbones definitely beat mine!

 

 

 

Which of your products do you use most often?

 

Every night I massage my face with NUORI’s Vital Foaming Cleanser, which is the perfect one-step product for removing pollution and makeup, gently exfoliating and hydrating skin. I am also completely addicted to our Lip Treat. Just before going to bed, I apply a really generous amount of the balm to my lips and then massage the rest onto my cuticles for conditioned nails by the morning. And since I spend so much time on airplanes, I swear by our invisible Supreme Moisture Mask, which I wear during the flight to ensure beautifully hydrated skin upon arrival.

 

Shop NUORI

  

March 20, 2017 by Will Frazier

Introducing Mercedes Castillo

 

 

We are thrilled to welcome the very first season of Mercedes Castillo shoes to our shelves. Mercedes' experience in the industry, coupled with her passion for art and design, has yielded a gorgeous debut collection. We chatted with Mercedes to learn more about her and how her namesake brand came together. 

 

Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you arrived here, launching your own line?

 

I was born and grew up in Spain, where I did some of my fashion studies. After that I moved to Milan where I continued studying under Italian master designers from the Memphis and Alchimia design movements. I’ve always worked in fashion, first in Milan for Gianfranco Ferré when he was leading Christian Dior, then in New York with Donna Karan and Tory Burch in between others. For years, Vince Camuto and I had been talking about starting a brand together. We had met and joined forces to launch Tory Burch shoes, where I was the Creative Director for Accessories. Once I left Tory, we moved very quickly in this direction. I had the luxury of taking some time to reconnect with who the costumer is today, who would wear our shoes, accessories and RTW. There are so many brands already, but I think there are always opportunities to create something that is unique and relevant.

 

Color, especially in this premiere collection, seems to be essential. How does your design process take shape? Do you have some idea of a palette before you begin considering shapes or forms? Or do colors come later?

 

Our brand is confident and optimistic. Color, especially unique shades of color, are vital in the collections. We start the collection with a theme, inspiration boards, a video or slide show. This is usually very imaginative (like a movie or a dream). The theme informs the shapes and color palette, which are designed and developed at the same time. We often approach color by working in monochromatic pieces where everything is tonal. 

 

The Mercedes Castillo woman is:

 

Confident, Optimistic, Magnetic, and most of all, engaged with her own creativity.

  

   

Scrolling through your Instagram, you reference artists working across mediums with an emphasis on sculptors and architects — does their work serve as a primary source of inspiration? Who are the artists who have been most important to you? Where else do you find inspiration? 

  

Mid-century architecture and geometric abstraction are very close to my heart, although I pay attention to all art forms and movements. Modernism provides a particularly important reference for the Mercedes Castillo brand. We like the idea of monochromatic pieces where everything is tonal. I love Ellsworth Kelly's use of bold color, Donald Judd's clean geometry, Niemeyer architectural form and Max Bill sculptures. Museums, travels and nature (especially flowers) are often sources of inspiration as well.

 

How do you spend your days off?

  

I live in New York, and my family is all over the world. When I am not working I may be traveling to visit them in Spain, South Africa, Hong Kong, or London, we generally spend summer vacation in Mallorca. My husband and I love exploring cities, finding inspiration, and seeing friends. Sometimes our favorite thing to do is simply staying at home in New York, but that’s quite rare, actually. There is always so much to do and enjoy in the city.

  

All the restaurants in NYC are going to close, and you can lobby to save just one, but you have to eat there every night for a year. Which spot do you choose to save?

   

Kappo Masa is always special!

   

  

 

A favorite pair of shoes from this collection?

  

Every pair is a favorite! I especially love the Riza, Odalia and Katalin’s sculptural elements.

   

Who are your role models?

  

I am inspired by where women are going today. They are engaged with their own creativity, powered by their individuality. That is why the brand is about creativity and self-expression.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

  

"Find your passion." This is what Vince always used to say.

 

 

Shop Mercedes Castillo  

 

  

March 14, 2017 by Will Frazier

giving back



We believe that giving feels better than receiving.

We believe that our success is dependent on a strong and vibrant Charlottesville-Albemarle community, which we’ve been proud to call home for almost 23 years.

Many hardworking non-profits sustain and better this community. As the holidays offer a time to reflect on our gratitude, we’d like to offer our support to five organizations that speak to us for the populations and initiatives they serve.

During the month of December, we will match your donation to one of the following:

Charlottesville Pride
Legal Aid Justice Center
Light House Studio
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic
Southern Environmental Law Center
 

In your in-store transaction(s) at Scarpa through the end of the month, you’ll have the option to donate $5 or $10 to one of the above groups, and we’ll match the gift.*

Merry Merry and Happy Happy
Team Scarpa

 

*Your donation can be captured via credit card or check at our register. We will match up to $10 per transaction. Donations may remain anonymous.

 

 

December 01, 2016 by Amy Gardner