Shilango’s Paola Silk
Looking to spice up your accessory game with some Mexican flavour? Entrepreneur Paola Silk’s SHILANGO offers up a curated line of ethically sourced jewelry. Utilizing her experience in sales and marketing in the tourism industry, Paola is now attempting to win the hearts of the fashion crowd with hand crafted wearable art. Working one-on-one with select artisans, she is able to offer a range of pieces for men and women. Read the full #stmINTERVIEWED below to learn how SHILANGO artisans are chosen, Paola’s personal style rule and which piece from the line has sentimental value for her.
STM – Where did the idea to start your brand come from?
Paola – My personal style is different, and I enjoy wearing original pieces of jewelry. Since I moved to Canada in 2008, I’ve been working with Mexican artisans who design my jewelry and those pieces travel with me back to Toronto. Since then people in the street ask me where I get my jewelry from. The common answer is Mexico.
STM – How do you find and select the artists you work with?
Paola – I personally curate the group of artisans that make SHILANGO jewelry. They’re specialists in their field. I select them based on creativity, originality and most importantly, quality of materials used in the making of jewelry. The common factor all must have is that they respect the environment by using only seasonal and locally sourced materials.
STM – What was the reaction from the first few artists you approached and explained you were a Canadian brand wanting to work with them?
Paola – They all were extremely excited to collaborate with us. The idea of making this unique jewelry available to the world is fascinating! They also expressed their pride knowing that SHILANGO jewelry would cross borders and show that handmade Mexican jewelry is much more than just the very common silver jewelry. We use alternative sources to create sustainable and ethical jewelry with meaning.
STM – You have partnered with a few local fashion shows and designers to have your product shown on the runway. What were some things you learned from these experiences you would pass onto other designers?
Paola – Yes we have! Collaboration makes everyone involved stronger. My advice is to partner/collaborate with other brands who share your core values or mission.
STM – What is your personal style rule when it comes to wearing accessories?
Paola – Be bold. Be different. Be original. If more than three people I know have it, I move on and try something new.
STM – How do you decide what to carry/offer? What is more important to you, following the trends or going with your gut instinct of what your brand is all about.
Paola – Just as my personal style is, I like to create trends and follow my own instinct of what to offer. I offer just that: bold, different and original pieces. Opposite of what the masses have.
STM – What is something you learned the hard way while launching your brand?
Paola – Honestly, I’m very cautious when it comes to my business decisions; especially when the budget is tight. So, I haven’t really had a “hard” leaning experience just yet. Being a Starter Company Grant and Mentorship Recipient, I have a mentor who also helped me to walk through most of the startup challenges. With that said, every entrepreneur will have to experience trial and errors on their own. In my case, a mild mishap was with paid print advertising. I made the mistake once and honestly it was not that bad.
STM – Choose your favourite piece from the collection and explain why this is your favourite.
Paola – The Genesis Bracelet (above.) Besides that it’s beautiful, it has sentimental value to me. My husband bought it for me on one of our trips to Mexico, and it’s become one of our best sellers. I named it the Genesis Bracelet because genesis means the beginning. It’s the Christian Old testament and the first book of the Hebrew Bible in which God creates the world. The bracelet represents the creation of SHILANGO.
STM – The artisans who make your jewelry, what are the various ways they benefit from working with you?
Paola – I love this question! Care for the people I work with is part of SHILANGO’s unique value proposition. They all benefit from fair wages and with payment 100% upfront. Besides, they benefit from having their designs available to the world and not just in their communities in Mexico. They benefit also from dealing with me directly since I speak Spanish and know the culture. They know I sincerely believe in them and support them in any possible way I can.
Top Photo from shilango.com