Brand to Know: Valas
From classic footwear to briefcases with custom Japan-made hardware, Valas are producing exactly the kind of well-appointed, wear-forever minus all the frills-pieces we have been waiting for. Here’s how the LA-based designers and founders, Kenneth Villagra and Karina Salmeron followed their passion and attracted an A-list following from Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner to Diddy and Basketball player, Dwayne Wade.
WHERE DOES THE NAME VALAS COME FROM?
Karina: Valas is derived from Balas, which is Spanish for bullet. I wanted to turn something negative into something beautiful through our pieces. I had this creative energy and had always been drawn to shoes and it seemed like the most natural choice.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE OVERALL AESTHETIC OF VALAS?
Karina: High end meets street. We work with some of the best luxury product artisans to create accessories with street sensibility and functionality.
THE MENS COLLECTION HAS QUITE A LUXURIOUS FEEL TO IT WITH FUNCTIONAL ELEMENTS TIED IN. WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH WHEN DESIGNING THE PIECES?
Karina: We wanted to create the perfect bag for the person who is on the go, a person who appreciates wearing pieces of art, the functionality of said art, and wants all of it to be in one luxurious package.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE HAD TO FACE WITH THE BRAND?
Kenny: From an operation and competitive perspective, finding ways to reduce the cost of goods sold in order to pass it down to our supporters and believers. Whether it’s eliminating the middleman, or finding vendors that can produce or sell us the material at a lower cost, all while maintaining the integrity level of our brand.
Karina: It was a journey to find the right makers for our pieces. I wanted them to be special, to say something for themselves, and it takes a very good craftsman to be able to translate that into the product. The craftsmanship is all in the details!
HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
Kenny: Street meets business casual. I was definitely more street driven before jumping into this lifestyle. Since then, you will most likely find me in a short sleeve button up, fitted jeans, a hint of gold or silver accessories, and of course of a pair of Valas boots.
Karina: I don’t feel like I have a particular style, it’s always evolving. I like to think of clothing more as art, so I’m always drawn to pieces that have that extra something to them, little details that make it more than just a piece of clothing.
We wanted to create the perfect bag for the person who is on the go, a person who appreciates wearing pieces of art, the functionality of said art, and wants all of it to be in one luxurious package.
CAN YOU LEND SOME ADVICE TO ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS?
Karina: The industry has changed so much, you can no longer just put a beautiful product on the shelf, it’s all about the lifestyle within your community and social media. You have to immerse yourself into the culture, the community around you, and from there you can expand. People have to be drawn to you first and foremost and from there they will move to actually buying the product.
Kenny: Time. Time is everything. Whether it’s the amount of time you dedicate to your dream or project, from being at the right place at the right time to making sure everything is scheduled and produced on time. I’m a firm believer that time can make or break you.
WHAT WOULD BE A DREAM COLLABORATION FOR VALAS?
Karina: So many! Artist Retna is one of our dreams. Others would be Colette, Yoshi Yamamoto, Os Gemeos and local LA designers who are passionate about their craft.
Photography Trevor King