Cura: a Genuinely Conscious Lifestyle Brand
Akiko Eisner-Waters or Kiko, as she prefers to be called, is the phenomenal creator of Cura, a lifestyle brand where impeccable design and conscious consumerism is not an either-or choice.
Entering her recently opened gallery in Central District, Seattle, feels like stepping into Kiko's home, into her actual lifestyle. Gorgeously curated accessories, home goods, garments, and beauty products are displayed throughout the space, all embraced by the stunning art of Michelle Robinson, showcased on the walls for everyone to enjoy.
Eisner-Water's love and eye for design are tangible in each detail, and it immediately becomes clear that she’s far from new at this.
In truth, Kiko spent years in the corporate world as design director at a major fashion brand, never contemplating once the possibility of going out on her own. She recalls the decision of leaving her job, as a shock to her system. “It was very sudden, and I definitely had to pick up the pieces in terms of my identity. I thought I’d just take a break and go back to the corporate life at some point.” But that day never came, and although she had no idea at the time, her departure marked a fresh beginning, one that would bring her a newfound sense of fulfillment.
A few months after leaving her job, Kiko took a short holiday trip to Chacala, Mexico, the place where the unexpected 'aha' moment for Cura arose. “It was a profound moment I’ll never forget,” she said with an expression of bliss. “I was walking through the town, and I saw a few wall hangings that I thought were absolutely gorgeous. For some reason, these particular weavings just really struck a chord with me. I instantly felt that I had to know more, Who had made them? Where were they from? I started asking around and quickly found out they where a commercialization of sacred weavings made by the Huichol people of the Sierra Madre mountains." She learned the weavings portrayed an ‘Ojo de Dios’ a God’s Eye, and from that moment of fascination, the whole path to Cura began unraveling.
“Within an hour, I continued walking down the road and saw a lovely, idyllic school. Someone on a balcony across the street, said it was a Montessori Waldorf School, and on the spot, I asked my husband, and son –who was eight back then- ‘What would you think if we moved to Mexico for a while?’” Her seemingly crazy proposition quickly became a reality.
“It all sounds so improbable now, but that’s what people do, we think things aren’t possible, and we hold back. My husband was able to work remotely, the school took international students, and I knew it would be a great growing experience for my son. I felt like that opportunity was not going to present itself again, and I knew I had to do it right then or never.”
Before moving, “I started asking myself, If I could create a perfect community experience, what would that be? If I could design the ideal life and company, what would that look like? Immediately, the conscious lifestyle concept came up. I imagined a design boutique that could represent incredible brands doing wonderful work around the world, and a space for community building and activism, for true communing.”
During four months, Kiko freely traveled around Mexico, discovering and connecting with artisans in places like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and San Miguel de Allende. “Because of my corporate background, I had many encounters at factories where I would try to connect with the actual person who was sewing one of my designs, and there was just nothing. The humanity of the people who were making the garments wasn’t being processed by the company, and certainly not by the end consumer. I always felt something was off, and for a long time I didn’t realize this was actually wrong, so I continued that way for many years. But it’s like Maya Angelou says, “you do the best you can until you know better, and when you know better, you do better."
Passion inundates the room when hearing Kiko speak of her experience in Mexico: "During that time, I was able to meet the men, the women, the families that I'm working with. I got to design product on site with them, I went to their homes and their workshops. It takes so many people to create a product, you just never know who those people are, and I’ve realized that something I can do is connect the maker with the consumer.”
Staying true to this mission, Kiko will "nerd-out" as she says, explaining the background of every single product on display. "All the organizations and businesses I'm partnering with are doing such good work in the world," she mentioned. "They’re ensuring that the makers on their end are getting paid a fair wage and more educational opportunities. Many of them are primarily led by women, in fact, a lot of the brands that I carry only employ women. I truly believe this is my opportunity to use my talents to support women as much as I can, in meaningful, tangible, socially impactful ways," she added.
Having opened her doors just a few months ago, the dream of Cura is only beginning. Kiko wants people to know her brand as a one-stop shop for social impact and stunning design, "I want those who come in here to know that their purchase is not only beautiful but genuinely making a difference."
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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