Paloma is one of those very lucky few with a subtle sense of elegance, able to mesmerize every single person in a room.
She was born further to the north, in San Sebastian, but has lived in Barcelona almost her whole life. Only 24-years old, she already runs two different businesses. One of them is Nice Things, the clothing brand her parents founded and where she learned the professional side of the business, and the other is Paloma Wool, where she displays her love for analog pictures and personal style. Fashion runs through her veins but her true calling is photography. At Paloma Wool they both merge creating a unique space for artists to gather.
The apartment Paloma shares with her mother is not your standard Barcelona home. The three level rooftop abode in the well-heeled Passeig de Gràcia is divided into different zones and acts as a sanctuary from the outside world. With its highly coveted and breathtaking cityscape views, a unique vantage is offered from the balcony over the Catalan capital. Paloma has her own floor that affords her an independent and personalized living space, while still being in close contact with family life.
Family is obviously important to you, did they influence your idea of starting a clothing line?
Even before I left college it was very clear to me that I wanted to create a fashion brand. In fact, I almost started one called “Little Paloma” which was a nod to my mother whose name is also Paloma. My father encouraged me, while my mother gave me second thoughts. Her advice was to wait until I had a very solid idea. When I thought about mixing photography and clothing, my mother told me, “Hey, listen I think now is the moment.”
What did you want to be when you were a child?
When I was very little I wanted to be a painter – a house painter! (laughs) I guess it was because of the colors. After that, I always knew I wanted to be a designer. When my parents established Globe they didn’t know how to manage a company. They were both very young and the business was a victim of its own success. They didn’t want me to go through that. On the contrary, they wanted me to be really prepared to run Nice Things. You can say I somehow studied design at home.
What was your life like before Paloma Wool?
I was studying at ESADE. After my father died, my mother asked me to help her full time. I was very lucky because I had the opportunity to work in every department, travel a lot and get to know the whole process. Now I am leading the marketing department. Being at Nice Things keeps me very close to the industry. I’ve been learning from its strengths and weaknesses to transform Paloma Wool into what I want it to be.
Traveling is essential to you. Where do you go on holiday?
I go often to San Sebastian. I also like visiting Mallorca. It’s a place where I can get away from everything. But the place to go is definitely Tokyo – that city drives me crazy. The culture is astonishing, the respect they have for everything, feeling safe the whole time – it’s brilliant.
Where do your passions for photography and fashion come from?
During my childhood every holiday trip we took was to New York where we would spend the whole day at places like Bergdorf Goodmans and as far back as I can remember I have been going to Tokyo twice a year to watch the trends. My contribution to the family business has been photography. When I was little my mother used to take a lot of pictures of me which she archived. She made tons of photo albums classified by year. That fascinated me. I think I started taking pictures because of that tradition. Making my own albums and archiving those moments almost became a necessity.
When I discovered analog photography I went nuts. The first camera I had was a Polaroid and that’s when I started taking photography seriously. I was living in Hong Kong for a few months, and I bought a Yashica at a flea market. After that I started taking pictures of my travels through China. I developed them and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was pure magic. That’s the thing with analog. Each time you take a picture it’s a moment that can no longer exist. You cannot edit it. It’s unique, it’s a risk and therefore it becomes very special.
Please tell us more about your background.
My family has been in the fashion business for a long time. My parents are the founders of Nice Things. They previously established Globe, which was huge in the 80s. My uncles also have a fashion brand and my grandparents owned several clothing shops in San Sebastian. Ever since I was born I have been unwittingly involved with the fashion world.
What are some of your other favorite places in Barcelona?
Nice Things, of course. I also wear a lot of second hand clothes. One of my best friends, Olga de la Iglesia has opened a shop where she sells vintage clothing from the Caribbean and I buy a lot of stuff there. The backpack I carry is Ölend from my studio mates. I dig the shoes from Deux Souliers. In general, I like supporting things made with love in Spain.
As a fan of second hand items, Paloma took us to Els Encants, the oldest flea-market in Barcelona. Originally called the “Old Charms” flea-market, this renovated vast multi-story open air complex near the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, you can find everything from antique furniture through to esoteric old records and postcards. Amongst the trash, there are bargains and treasures to be discovered.
“The armchairs in the studio are very special to me. I bought them here and it was my first contribution to the place.”
Barcelona is a very creative city, how does that affect your practice?
The biggest influence has been the circle of friends I’ve created. It just happens that my friends have always been part of the same creative sphere as me. Almost all my life my best friend has been Carlota Guerrero. She’s also my right hand at Paloma Wool. That relationship has defined who I am and who I want to be. I also share a lot with Camila Falquez and Olga de la Iglesia, both photographers and great friends of mine.
On your website you say, “Paloma Wool is my name and the name of this project, which is about getting dressed and about space or ideas that are created around the act of getting dressed.” What do you want to convey there?
When I started this project I did not want it to be just a clothing brand. It was very clear to me that one of the strengths of Paloma Wool was going to be all the artistic support behind it. That’s why the furniture, the pictures, the web and the videos, all of them have the same importance. I don’t want the garment to stand out. I want everything to be on the same hierarchical level. The act of getting dressed is not about putting clothes on, it’s about all the imagery behind. It says so much about who we are. From the person who doesn’t care at all, to the one that cares a lot. Our aesthetic codes, how we combine colors and so on say so much about us.
Many people see fashion as something superficial, but you want to go a step further with this project. What is your vision for fashion? How do you want your clothes to be?
I abhor the point fashion has reached. It’s very superficial, very vain. Even with that, fashion is an intrinsic part of who I am. It’s very important to me because in the end fashion provides my livelihood. So when I talk about my brand I like to talk about clothes not fashion. They are just garments, individual pieces you wear to express something. Paloma Wool is aimed at someone who is sensitive, who is interested in buying local, an almost handmade product. Productions are very small, just 50 pieces. I don’t think people just buy the clothes, I think they appreciate the project on its own.
Can you describe your work process and routine?
Well, I don’t have much of a routine, to tell the truth. I work for Paloma Wool and Nice Things at the same time, so I am always switching between those two things. I love it because I am never doing the same thing. One day I could be preparing the fabrics for the new pieces and the next day I could be photographing them. This non-routine fits me very well since I tend to get distracted. I always have a thousand things in my head.
At the last moment, I always think of something that ends up being crucial. There is a very strong element of improvisation at Paloma Wool. Especially when I am taking the pictures. The first and the last thing that come to mind are always the most important for my photos.
Despite your love for the analog world, you decided to sell Paloma Wool exclusively online, why?
It allows me to sell at affordable prices. There are no middlemen. It’s just me selling. Besides the investment was reasonable and I wanted to give this channel a try. I buy almost all of my clothes online, because I don’t have time to go shopping.
Other than that it was very clear to me that I did not want to do a summer and winter collection. The fashion industry has entered a series of nonsense timings. Having my own website allows me to be much more flexible. I don’t have to attend fairs or adapt to these timings. I can adjust to what I feel like doing at any given moment.
Your photos have a very clear aesthetic, did it come naturally or were you looking for something specific?
It came naturally. I almost didn’t use any of the photos I had taken. The process is very intuitive and I am very impulsive. I let myself go and let the pictures surprise me when I develop them.
What does analog photography have that digital is missing?
That magic is only possible with analog photography. Supposing I used digital I could take one thousand pictures and decide whether I like them or not. You can’t do that with analog.
Is there a reason you produce your clothes in Spain?
I want to support the local economy, even though this makes the task of finding the fabrics and the producers more difficult. For instance, now I’m doing a collaboration with Ölend and I am having difficulties to find a place to make the digital prints. It’s difficult but worth it. Having the chance of meeting the person doing the clothes and supporting the local economy is priceless.
Although the brand is pretty new it has already become quite successful. What is the key to its success?
For me it’s a matter of being true to myself. It’s something my mother taught me; to always do things I love, and I try to pass on this message to my team. Push them to do only the things they love. To be selective and show the things they are proud of. The secret is to do whatever you like. I don’t want to be carried away by what’s considered commercial. In the end I have realized I have to follow my guts. That’s what people like.
What is the best part of the job?
What I love is the time span between when the idea is born until it is realized. In college, teachers told me that ideas are overrated. The idea is worth a mere 5% and the rest is about how it’s carried out – an idea by itself has no value. Take for instance the last pictures I took for Paloma Wool. My inspiration was a Hockney pattern. He used to paint inside swimming pools. I wanted to find a pool to paint the same pattern we had created. Carlota and I had to look for a pool. We finally found one but it was abandoned and we had to work on it. There were so many bugs we had to go to the emergency room. My mother asked if it was really worth it, and I said, “Yes of course it was!”
I was working on it with Carlota, who was working on it with me, and we didn’t care. The anecdote contributed to making the process even more unique. Each time I see these pictures I think of everything that went behind that and I feel the project very close to my heart.
After visiting Paloma at her studio in El Poblenou – a neighborhood filled with old warehouses – we drank a coffee at the closest cafe, Café Torino. For this stylish lady, proximity and practicality are prized above making a trek to the hippest coffee spot.
Today the area is in transformation, with co-working spaces and ateliers renewing the urban landscape. Paloma Wool is but one of a new breed of creative companies establishing themselves in this corner of the city.
What can we expect from Paloma Wool in the future?
Right now I don’t have time for more projects. I’d like to continue full time with Paloma Wool and make it grow and earn notoriety. I’d like it to be a platform for different artists to get known and showcase their work. In other words, create a space for artists that I like and with which I share something in common.