Mid-lockdown Melinda sat down for a chat with Karolina: Founder, Creative Director and Editor-in Chief of ESTILA, the bi-annual publication envisioned to inspire, connect and support creatives through amplifying the personal journeys of creative businesses. Not only has ESTILA become an increasingly utilised tool within the creative industries, but Karolina continues to spread her knowledge of PR, marketing and communications at events throughout the country – she even made an appearance as a panellist at our Concept North event in Chester last year! As if Karolina didn’t have enough on her plate, she is also the brand storyteller and strategist at STUDIO/ESTILA, a platform designed to assist businesses with their brand identity ultimately intending to stimulate conversations with clients and customers alike.
If you are interested in subscribing to the ESTILA publication, you’ll be pleased to know that now included in the annual subscription package are an additional six newspapers which you will receive along with the two bookazines per year. For more information on subscribing and how to get your hands on Volume 12 of the publication, titled Revival, head over to the ESTILA store where you will also be able to order back-copies.
Read on to find out more about the publication, its’ founder and how you might be able to get involved.
Image courtesy of ESTILA
Tell us a little bit about the pre-ESTILA you!
My background is in retail, design and business. I also have a hospitality experience so my career pre-ESTILA has been very rich and varied. As a child of family-owned business, I had to help out in my teenage years, I didn’t want to work for my parents when I left school. I decided to come to London and study for degree in Economics and Business Studies instead. I started my first business at the age of 24 while still doing the degree and having my first daughter. My second business was an independent extension of our family business back home. While running it, during my second pregnancy I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour and went blind in one eye within 8 weeks. A few years later when I needed a course of radiotherapy treatment, I decided to close it and find my purpose. I retrained as an interior designer and landed a big renovation project. During that time I realised how frustrated I was with magazines as a source of inspiration, and so I decided to do something about it.
Why ESTILA? How did you get the idea of starting a bookazine?
ESTILA actually started in a form of my newsletter which I used to send out to my clients. I was experimenting with content, visuals and layouts and concluded that a PDF format would be a much better solution. I have developed graphic design skills over my business ventures and have always been heavily involved in producing brochures and promotional materials so I saw this project as another “brochure”.
From the start, the concept for ESTILA was very simple: to tell the stories of creatives that I used to meet through working with them on my projects or through networking. I realised that as a creative myself, I didn’t want to be told what to put in my home and whether pink is “on trend”. I wanted to find out how designers, artists and creative minds make their products or how they approach their projects. I wanted to be inspired by their journeys and experiences.
Since then, ESTILA has transitioned into a community of creative founders and a publication which encourages not only sharing the design stories but also business stories. I call it a bookazine because that’s exactly what it is. It’s an educational and inspirational medium, reflecting intelligent content like you find in books mixed with strong, inspirational visuals that you get from magazines. Furthermore, it’s also a great resource of contacts within the lifestyle and design industry. I believe that the long term survival of small creative businesses lies in collaborations, the value and importance of which I have learnt through running my own business as well as my parents business.
Why is ESTILA a bookazine and not a magazine?
To me, the meaning of magazine and bookazine is different. Magazines are purely for inspiration and trends, something to flick through while enjoying a bit of me-time. Bookazine, on the other hand, is, as the name suggests, more like a book. Its content is more timeless, less trend-driven, more storytelling and motivational. It’s treated in a similar way to books: you collect them for future reference, for contacts as your business grows. You might recall a brand story which you read about and when you’re ready to connect, for example for diversifying or moving up a level, you can just find them in the bookazine. Also, the quality of production, design and paper of the final product is more premium. Most of our readers style our bookazines on their bookshelves, each issue has a different colour on the cover so over time this creates a beautiful rainbow-like effect.
Image courtesy of ESTILA
Collaboration is a big thing for you; what do you hope to see when you connect people through the bookazine?
It took me around 4 years for our subscribers and our community to understand that ESTILA is a networking tool. Maybe because of my background in business I am able to see opportunities everywhere. Especially within the lifestyle industry where small companies in different markets and sectors can work together. I heavily encourage our creative founders who are subscribed to get in touch with me if they need help with finding the right people and other businesses. However, over the past 6 months, I have noticed that the most active founders are getting the idea how to go about forming collaborations and are therefore more independent. They just quickly run the idea by me and connect with the collaborator directly, referencing ESTILA.
The projects that are formed within our community range from exposure focused projects such as collaborating on brand awareness and multiplying audience reach through photoshoots, competitions, giveaways or collaborative projects such as Claire Gaudion did with her "Personalised Moodboard" service, to more sales driven projects such as specific marketing campaigns based around a theme or a requirement identified through market research and current consumer behaviour. Even though such projects require creating a new collection or product, they are beneficial to both sides, if the story is relevant and has a good PR spin. Both businesses therefore benefit from not only great press coverage but also from the exposure that drives sales.
In terms of interior designers, they can get involved with product-based businesses and partner with them on a bespoke product or full range, therefore branching out into retail, which is something I think designers should consider doing. Crisis is usually followed by recession and so it may be more difficult to get a decent number of projects coming through the door. Another option is to consider teaching or consulting, which our business advisor members can help to brainstorm.
Image courtesy of ESTILA
You make room for anyone in the creative industries - interiors, art, fashion, beauty and travel are all sections you cover in ESTILA. You are building a wonderful platform to bridge the gap between these sectors and connect them to each other. How can we all come together, especially now during these difficult times?
I purposely have chosen to include all lifestyle sectors within the lifestyle industry. I see a lot of small member’s clubs and associations within each sector - e.g. interiors has a few, fashion has a few, small creative founders has a few options and so have artists, but there isn’t a platform which connects creative founders across these markets. Collaborations are the future of small business but more importantly collaborations across markets will be even more important. The days of trading in one market are over. Also, putting all eggs in one basket is not a very safe or wise strategy either. It is therefore super important to come together. For example, we will see more scenarios where interior designers will get more involved into retail and the art scenes. In our STUDIO/ESTILA, we are currently working with a furniture brand that designs collections around fashion prints and bespoke art pieces. Collaborating with fashion designers, who would otherwise not be able to get into interiors on their own or in a well-considered and timely manner, give this brand a competitive advantage with interior designers eagerly awaiting the release of the products. Working with designers on bespoke pieces, gives designers an opportunity to have a retail as well as hospitality presence, if the pieces are strategically placed in boutiques and hotels.
What drives this collaborative approach is a common goal of delivering an exceptional customer experience. As we’ve been hearing a lot lately, the high street is going through some major changes. These changes are influenced by changing consumer behaviour, their needs, wants and desires. What customers, clients and guests want is an experience in the physical world. This is something which online shopping cannot provide. So we will move more towards shopping for convenience online and experiential shopping offline. Design plays an important role in delivering these unique experiences. This is an area that designers can get involved in. However, it does not mean that every designer has to move into commercial or retail design, it’s more about utilising and maximising their knowledge and skillsets, and transferring them in different areas. Furthermore, clients’ needs and expectations will shift too. As a result, designers will have to become more retail savvy and customer focused so they can better understand and predict such changes.
It is a very exciting time to live through these changes but small businesses need to pull together to survive and thrive.
You have recently launched ESTILA CIRCLE, tell us a little bit about what this is and who is it for?
ESTILA CIRCLE is a directory for any creative business in the lifestyle industry - from artists, interior designers, independent fashion, lifestyle and homeware brands to photographers and service based businesses – anyone who support the industry. So far, we also have three business advisors and consultants with decades of experience, knowledge and an impressive portfolio of brands and design businesses behind them. Each business will have its own business page where they can promote product, services, collections, events and workshops. We will be grouping our members for regular meet ups (at the moment online) where we propose specific collaboration projects. Then it would be up to them to decide if they want to go ahead and explore the idea further or whether to request another meet up with different members.
It is therefore very important that each member, founder and designer understands the concept of collaborations so they get maximum results for their business.
This is what makes the directory different to anything else. We are like a dating platform for businesses who want to progress, evolve and thrive.
You have interviewed and worked with so many creatives - in your opinion, what makes a designer stand out in the world of interiors?
I think the designers who I notice and get my attention are those who do things differently. They just don’t have a unique design signature style, the way they run their business is different too. They might have forward thinking ethos and values which they try to pass on to their clients. For example, in our Vol 11 we featured Pia Design. It took me a long time to find her because I was specifically looking for interior designers who put a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco design but yet still use colour, texture and pattern in their projects. She just stood out above the rest because Pia’s whole business and mission is to create beautiful spaces but with recycled fabrics, recycled plastic bottle rugs and overall environmentally friendly approach. Another design studio we featured (in Vol 7) was Project Orange, an interior architecture business which puts a heavy emphasis on the impact of design on climate change. I think more and more clients will be requesting such designers and so these examples are at the forefront of this change in the design industry. That’s why we feature them. They are purpose driven.
Where would you like to see ESTILA in 5 years?
I want ESTILA to be a go-to resource for small creative businesses and founders, offering support through multichannel experience while educating the customer and public and connecting them to our community. Our focus therefore will be on building various branches to the ESTILA brand and establishing our presence in the market through different platforms.
To find out more about ESTILA, or to purchase the latest copy of the bookazine as well as back-copies take a look at their website.