Shanan Campanaro is a New York based textile designer dedicated to sustainable innovation and expert craftsmanship. Eskayel, the burgeoning design studio of which she is the founder, has cultivated a loyal following among some of the most influential interior designers and architects in the United States, and Shanan’s latest project, the collaborative designer showcase Next Level, is showing early signs of similar success.
Here we delve deeper into Shanan’s consciousness, as we learn how her close personal relationships and her collaborative instinct were integral to the development of one of NYCxDesign’s most exciting exhibitions.
It’s often difficult to find creatives that balance entrepreneurship as naturally as you do. Has owning your own business always been a personal ambition for you?
Yes I think I have always wanted to own my own business. I tried several other business ideas, from a stuffed animal petting zoo when I was in grade school, to making t-shirts in college before I created anything that actually sold though. Who knew I was meant to be a wallpaper designer!
I find figuring out finances and understanding how to manage people to be fascinating. I love the idea of loving what you do and having a happy, healthy and balanced work life. I think trying to figure that out for myself, my family and my employees is my second greatest passion after creating.
Talk us through how you built the Eskayel brand. How did that journey then lead to the concept of NEXT LEVEL?
Eskayel is going on 11 years now. I started out making wallpaper and have added fabric, both woven and printed, rugs and other textiles to the selection. The company has always made everything to order and has never had any stock, which is a concept I still find risky, but we always tried to grow slowly and organically and never took on any outside investment to push growth. I think I was always scared to grow too fast because I felt that things might fall through the cracks or not get done properly. I like the idea of being a niche brand that designers can discover, and not be available on every website or showroom.
Direct sales has also been a huge part of our growth. A lot of creative studios rely on the showroom infrastructure for their sales and just maintain a creative team. We found that because our products are so custom that often we could explain them easier and faster to our clients than showrooms could. By having a small in-house sales team, our company has been able to increase our margins and cultivate a more personal relationship with our interior design clients who we work with from project to project.
Next Level came about more through friendship. Patrick Weder, his wife Tamika and Asher Israelow are really close and [my partner Nick and I] became close with them as well, and when they had the opportunity to use the space at 718 Broadway they looped us in as partners. Eskayel has more employees and organizational capabilities than they do, as they are wood workers with a creative team only. But I think it mostly came down to friendship.
How has Next Level evolved for its second showcase? What’s new this time around?
This year the show is much larger with over 30 designers and many more physical pieces. In addition to this, all of Eskayel’s designs were made specifically for Next Level. This was something we could do since we had the whole year to plan the show, whereas last year we literally devised the whole concept less than a month before design week.
What was one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced putting this year’s show together?
I think the show growing so much from last year to this year created a ton of work that all the organizers have been juggling. It’s been quite overwhelming the amount of work involved, and we had to run our own companies on top of it. Last year everything happened so fast that there was no time for deliberation or democracy – it was more scrappy which in some ways made it more fun. This year it felt more serious and stressful and maybe a little less fun. Hopefully the fun spirit will still be evident in the final exhibition.
We’re very excited about the creative programming at this year’s show. What are you looking forward to the most and why?
I’m glad you are excited about the programming! Last year we tried to do some, but without any time to publicize it it wasn’t really a strong point. This year, we have some great talks and panels and I really hope they are well attended. I’m excited about the panel I’m on with Amanda Pratt from Salon Design Boston, and I’m also looking forward to the lantern exhibition which I think will draw crowds from both the art scene and the design scene.
Summarise the NYC design scene. What do you love about it, and what do you find challenging?
For many years, Nick and I were a bit shy and intimidated by the scene, but Next Level and Bar Basso kind of changed all that, and now it feels like we know everyone and it’s just fun. The design community here is wonderful and we all love to help and collaborate. I feel really fortunate to be in New York at such a thriving time for design.
How do you approach creative blocks and challenging situations in general?
If I am blocked creatively I just don’t try to create anything. I really wait for the inspiration and volition to make something that specifically calls to me. Eventually it always does. In general, I usually try to solve challenging situations with a combination of spiritual practice including meditation, visualisation and breathing work during physical activity like yoga, spinning, or surfing. I’m a really active person and I find regularly engaging with exercise and challenging physical situations help me to deal with things mentally and emotionally. Acupuncture, bodywork and regular meditation can really help when things need to shift.
Aside from your own activities, what else are you looking forward to experiencing at NYCxDESIGN this year?
I’m really happy that more and more people are trying to do offsite shows rather than just showing at ICFF. Inside/Out is an outdoor furniture show curated by Kin and Co and ASA, and Hannah Martin curated a show in industry city all about wood, while Apparatus is throwing a party in an abandoned theatre in Harlem.
We were delighted to be part of NEXT LEVEL 2019. The exhibition is open 18-24 May, see next-levelnyc.com for more details.