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The fashion industry has seen a big shift towards sustainability in recent years, but mindful consumption has been part of the ethos of Toronto-based jewelry brand CUCHARA since its genesis. In 2014, Edi Canedo crafted her first piece of jewelry, a necklace made with materials from a vintage silver spoon from her personal collection, and the brand was born.
Canedo grew up in Victoria, B.C., and moved to Toronto to study fashion at George Brown College. These two contrasting environments—the laid-back, nature-rich island and the bustling, diverse city—have offered her a unique lens through which to create. Over the past eight years CUCHARA has become a favourite of women globally for its wearable, everyday pieces that are boho-chic with a touch of city-cool, and ethically sound thanks to its use of locally sourced, repurposed materials.
Jewelry has been an important part of human life for centuries. Long before necklaces, bracelets and rings were fashionable accessories, jewelry was worn to symbolize different aspects of life—security, wisdom, prosperity, social status, and more. And while jewelry is more accessible than ever, CUCHARA injects meaning to each of its pieces by (according to its website) “creating jewelry that is not just made with love and care but has been conceptualized with our ethical responsibility to mother earth at the forefront of our minds.” Browse through the extensive collection you’ll find everything from delicate chains to chunky rings, each piece handcrafted, unique and never mass-produced.
These days CUCHARA is a two-woman show, with Edi handling all of the design and Chloe Li-Chapman, who joined the team in 2018, heading up all things marketing, PR, and community. In addition to growing a loyal customer base, CUCHARA profiles other women entrepreneurs and creators with an “In Studio” editorial series, spotlights favourite women DJs with the“Studio Sound” mix series, and has raised funds for the Black Visions Collective and Reclaim The Block. They’ve also expanded their offerings to include CUCHARA FINE, a higher-end line with more premium materials; and a gender-neutral line 12TWELVE. CUCHARA pieces have been spotted on Jessie Reyez, Shay Lia, and just about every fashionable woman walking the streets of Toronto.
Just in time for the launch of CUCHARA’s Fall/Winter collection, we caught up with Edi and Chloe to learn what it’s like building a brand, how to work with your bestie, and some jewelry trends we should be on the lookout for.
CUCHARA is known for its jewelry, and yet you are always adding new offerings and ventures into the mix. How do you balance establishing yourselves as a brand and becoming known for something, while continually evolving and trying new things?
We are very tied to our brand identity and want our customers to feel as if they are a part of our journey. We do not claim to be master marketers or fashion designers that know everything; we are continuously learning from our peers and through trial and error. We only put something out that we would wear or be attracted to as a consumer so we won’t produce stuff just because it’s the latest trend or everyone else is wearing it. Recently we revisited and updated our ‘Brand Board’—a mood board composed of images, text, colours etc. Doing this brought us back to think about our core values while updating and modernizing the brand aesthetic.
“We wouldn’t always recommend going into business with your friends but in our case it works.”
BIWOC-owned businesses are really killing it these days, in Canada and beyond. What are some of the unique challenges of being a small, Canadian business?
Everyone, including ourselves, looks to the States or Europe for inspiration but we are trying to show people that you can have something authentic, cool and owned by WOC in Canada. Sometimes it can be difficult to be creative and profitable in the Canadian market. We often want to produce some of the ‘awkward’ designs that we would love to see more people wear, knowing that probably not a lot of our customers will buy it. However, we’ll make a couple samples that stylists end up pulling and using these pieces for their shoots, so it’s a great way for us to be unique and scratch that ‘creative’ itch. The rise in businesses owned by BIWOC is amazing and we love being a part of it.
“We are here today because of our friends and community who showed up to every pop-up, event, and sample sale. We love using our platform to help each other with our businesses, it’s a huge part of our success and what CUCHARA’s ethos is about.”
You are a small, two-woman team who also happen to be close friends. What are some tips you have for how to work effectively?
Patience, communication and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. We don’t agree on everything but we have the same goal— to build a successful business. We wouldn’t always recommend going into business with your friends but in our case it works. Like any relationship it takes work but ultimately we have our designated roles and know where each other is strongest. Basically, Chloe’s long perfect nails means Edi’s stubbs must take full responsibility for all hands-on tasks.
You often collaborate with other small businesses and creators for your In Studio and Studio Sound series. Why is it important for you to do those things?
We are here today because of our friends and community who showed up to every pop-up, event, and sample sale. We love using our platform to help each other with our businesses, it’s a huge part of our success and what CUCHARA’s ethos is about. Music is also a huge part of our lives, it’s where a lot of our inspiration comes from. We sometimes wonder if our studio neighbours think we’re ok when we blast music and sing along to songs ranging from Shania Twain to Skepta. Having a music aspect included into our brand was a necessity.
What can you tell us about 12TWELVE?
12TWELVE came to be because we saw the need for our customer to have an alternative option that was a little less trend driven and more for longevity. 12TWELVE provides the finishing touch to your own creativity—high quality, low intervention. We’ve had a lot of friends, male friends particularly, asking for classic, masculine-style chains and rings. This is a brand for them in a way they can relate to, separate from CUCHARA. That said, 12TWELVE is gender-neutral and we really want to encourage our customers to think of customizing their jewelry.
What are some of the fondest memories you have of CUCHARA’s journey so far?
Going from Edi’s spare room in her apartment to our first shared studio space to then moving into our own studio in 888 Dupont. The investment in a space of this size was a huge milestone for our company, but it was essential to our success. It’s disappointing that accessibility to privately owned studio spaces is so difficult in Toronto.
What are the Fall/Winter jewelry trends that we should be aware of?
Long chains, stacking chunky rings, and adding pops of colour. You can never go wrong with hoops.
What is CUCHARA going to be focusing on for 2022?
Well…. we have found a new space because we had to leave our studio at 888 Dupont. It’s a huge *scary* step for us but we are very excited and proud to share our next venture and connect IRL with all of our supporters.
Photographer: Jorian Charlton
Photography Assistant: Joshua Rille
HMU: Mila Victoria
Stylist: Sarah Vonditsianou
Model: Hema Ricchi
Designer: Edi Canedo
Producer: Chloe Li-Chapman