Before I met Kiko Eisner-Waters this past spring, her work had been brought to my attention by a mutual friend via Instagram. It read something along the lines of "A friend recently opened a shop that I think is perfectly aligned with the mission and aesthetic of The Fold. You should check it out!" A month later, as luck would have it, I had the pleasure of connecting with Kiko in person, the woman behind CURA .
I should also offer this aside: When Kiko Eisner-Waters walks into a room, you take notice. Maybe it's her oversized, tortoise rimmed glasses, the perfectly fitted (but uniquely designed) jumpsuit she is wearing, or the statement making accessories she has adorned - as these are all definitely noteworthy and attention grabbing. But, I would argue it's her razor sharp focus and passion for her community, the way she carries herself and speaks about the women she supports and represents at CURA - all of these qualities, combined with her desire to make an indelible mark on the "lifestyle" industry, are a few of the reasons we find Kiko fascinating and inspiring.
A fashion veteran who had an "epiphany" while traveling in Mexico last year, Kiko is a woman who makes things happen and does not take her "calling" lightly. Today we take a tour of her newly opened brick and mortar, discuss the importance of putting "artistry and social impact above all else", the impact of thrifting on one's personal style and much more.
Where did you hone your personal style and how would you explain your sartorial leanings and interests?
As my mother tells it, my obsession with style and clothing became very clear at the age of two when I would no longer let her pick out my clothes. As I got older, and because our family did not have money, it forced me to hone my own style through thrifting and vintage. Today, I’m a happy mash up 70’s glam, neutral palettes, classic proportions and clean shape androgyny. I also love anything that gets gets better with age, like denim or a vintage watch, I’m in.
You spent years in the fashion industry - what were you doing in your previous career?
My last role was as the Director of Women’s Design at Tommy Bahama. Prior to that I worked in many different design roles, with long stints in both menswear and denim design.
How did the idea and inspiration for CURA come about?
It was an epiphany. I was on vacation in Chacala, Mexico in February of 2018. I was particularly moved by the Huichol peoples' craft beadwork and weavings. Though I’d seen this work before, I didn’t quite absorb it the way I did on this trip. I wanted to know more: Who were these artisans? Why was their work so spiritually inspired and how could I help bring their talents to a broader market? Once I started down the path, I couldn’t stop. It sounds woo-woo, (which I am btw), but I was “called”. Almost overnight I went from thinking about a side hustle of jewelry and tapestries to moving my family to Mexico for four months. Twelve months later I launched CURA.
What made you decide to make the career pivot from working for a large company to opening a boutique retail space?
I knew a break was in order after almost 16 years working in the corporate fashion world. Initially, I expected to return to the fashion industry. In hindsight I realize I hadn't even caught my breath when I went on that holiday and discovered a different path.
How do you describe the aesthetic, business model and mission of CURA?
This is a bit of designer speak, but I call the aesthetic “Wabi-Sabi Glam”. In other words, a globally inspired mix of earthy, imperfect, sparkle-filled beauty.
Simply put our business model is a for profit social enterprise, and our vehicle for impact is a conscious lifestyle brand. To clarify “lifestyle” is a term that is often thrown around in consumer branding speak, but what it means is we offer the whole package. We're not just an edited selection of ethically sourced items, but we are a resource that supports conscious, impact living, a one-stop shop. We're a place to gather and a means to drive change.
Our mission in it’s most distilled truth is to be a force for good. Any brand we align with domestically is either founded by a woman or is supporting marginalized women in some fashion. Our international business partners make a social impact well beyond fair-trade and fair wages. These brands provide training, human rights education, child care, healthcare, wellness and on and on.
Why is it important to you to support ethical businesses and to put "artistry and social impact" above all else?
In my opinion, great designers are great problem solvers. The design problems I’m interested in solving are equity, accessibility, sustainability and impact. There are other brands that function similarly to CURA but they live in the luxury realm. These shops are awesome and are making a big impact, but CURA is about bringing this movement to a much broader socioeconomic market, while maintaing design integrity and keeping our selection artful, edited and unique. Thus “artistry and social impact above all else” it is our value proposition.
You opened a little over 5 months ago in the Central District of Seattle. What attracted you to this community and how has the reception been thus far?
This is my neighborhood. After years of traveling for work and driving from my home to an office parking garage, I was craving connection with this community. I also knew how important it would be test my ideas in a brick and mortar before moving to ecommerce. The opportunity to get real time and in person feedback from my actual neighbors was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
The reception has been good. It seems so obvious, but the more you put yourself out there the more opportunity will come your way. Not everyone knows this, but we are also an art gallery and our hook is we feature solo shows for local female artists. The positive reception to this aspect of our space has created opportunities like our recent CURA X Riveter, art showcase. This weekend I hung our first artist in the Cap Hill location featuring the work of Amy Stone.
What are a few of your favorite pieces currently in the shop?
I love the CURA up-cycled denim collection. I’m proud of our partnership with the amazing local organization Refugee Artisan Initiative. Each piece is custom embroidered and one of a kind. I’m also obsessed with a new jewelry collection we are carrying by Soko, designed in San Fran and made by artisans all over Africa, both the impact of the collection and the styling is choice!!
What are a few things potential clients can always expect when they walk through the CURA doors?
An enthusiastic warm welcome, Solange or 90’s hip hop playing, a globally inspired assortment of artisan made products, select found and vintage, art for purchase by a local female artist, (currently Season Evans) and hopefully something that lights you up and fits your budget.