Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Alan Ng
Photography by Jenkin Au
Location: Toronto[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
Nuestro, a Toronto based accessory retailer that is pushing the boundaries of how accessories should look and feel, is the brainchild of Matthew Chang and Paul Nuestro. Looking for a simple canvas laptop bag? Look no further than a hand crafted cotton canvas, wood, and metal bag that is sturdy yet elegant. Is storing items in your pockets too much of a hassle? Free up some space with Nuestro’s NYPD inspired shoulder or hip holsters for your wallet or cell phone. The guys of Nuestro are incorporating quality materials into new looks and designs that they believe will make a difference in their customers’ enjoyment of their products. So far, this approach has been successful in differentiating Nuestro from the other stores out there and garnering them a lot of attention.
“Nuestro” means “ours” in Spanish and when justalilhype! got a chance to speak with the new maestros of accessory chic, we really felt that they want to make the brand “ours.” Not just theirs and certainly not just ours, but “ours” in the communal sense: a brand of the people. We learned about, among other things, what inspired Paul’s initial design, how he hooked up with Matthew, just what it takes to execute one of Nuestro’s concepts, and what the consumer can expect in the following months. Nuestro is taking normal, everyday necessities of our modern rat race and upping the ante on style, functionality, and quality, so check out Nuestro and make it yours as well.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
M: My name is Matthew Chang.
P: Hey, I am Paul Nuestro.
Tell us a bit more about your individual roles in Nuestro.
M: Well, I design. Paul pretty much comes up with the concept and I design the product.
P: I come up with these outrageous designs and Matt over here brings them into life. He makes the concept more marketable.
Tell us a bit about the birth of the brand. What’s the story behind your products?
P: It started off when I finally got a MacBook Pro. I was trying to find a bag for my MacBook. I went to Urban Outfitters and all these little boutiques on Queen Street and couldn’t find anything. I wanted something basic, made out of canvas, and maybe with a little bit of leather and a handle. I didn’t want any zippers, or Velcro on it. That just didn’t make sense. I took it upon myself to actually go to a store to find the parts and assemble my own carrying case. I went to an arts and crafts store and picked up canvas on my own. I then saw wood frames right beside it. I thought I could incorporate those into my design. I picked up that frame and I attached the three pieces of frame together to make a “U” shape. I then wrapped the canvas around that. I grabbed the hanger and then I screwed it to the bag. I started walking around in downtown with this bag and started to get a lot of attention. People were coming up to me to ask where I got it. I told them I made it myself. That’s when I discovered that there actually is a market for this. I went shopping at this art supply store again and I asked the storeowner where and how I could actually produce this bag and he gave me Matt’s number. I called Matt up and asked if I could get my bag refined and get it sold in stores. It turned out that he had actually seen me downtown with the bag. From there, we teamed up to create Nuestro.
What were your first thoughts when you first teamed up?
M: When I first met Paul, I thought that he was just another punk kid coming to me saying that he had the next big product. But as I saw his products, I actually saw some promise in them because I have seen a lot of products come and go over the years. Most of them don’t make it. I knew I had to jump on this one, so here we are.
You first started off with a bag for your laptop. How did it evolve into a full line of accessories?
P: I wanted to be a cop for the longest time. I wanted to be that bad ass cop that had holsters, guns, and NYP badges hanging off of my nice Armani suit. I was arrested when I was young. I was a bad kid with a criminal record and that stopped me from being a police officer, but I still wanted that look. It was my dream to be a cop so I was figuring out a way to wear holsters without being a cop. I wanted to make it like an accessory and something to utilize, so I made one for your cell phone and wallet.
How did the name come to be? Why Nuestro?
P: It’s my middle name. It means “ours” in Spanish. Our creation magnetizes. We want to share this style with everybody.
M: It’s a gift, but you got to pay.
P: This was actually one of the hardest steps of the company, trying to figure out the logo and the name. I have spoken to everybody about it. I work at Club Monaco and I am around a bunch of stylists and people in the industry. One of my friends is a marketer and she recommended that it would work after I told her my full name.
There’s a hammer and a thin needle in your logo. Tell us about the concept behind the logo.
P: We really wanted to get the fact across that all our products are hand crafted. We thought that those symbols represent that feeling.
It’s definitely good for a start-up to create notable handcrafts, but as your business progresses, how do you plan to keep up the same level of quality with an increase in demand?
P: We are set on sticking to our morals and staying Canadian-based and not having little kids make our stuff. Our prices are very fair for it to be made in Canada and we would like to stay that way.
While bringing the brand up, what were some of the greatest challenges that you had to overcome?
M: I think one challenge was that the product is rather unique. It’s something that is not very available. For example, the holster fits your phone and your wallet. It’s a new idea because it’s not a belt, not a jacket, and not a bag. You really have to really sell the idea to the person. They generally either love it or not, but the response we are getting overall is very positive. So that initial introduction of a new product was the biggest hurdle.
P: Designing and executing the product was difficult as well.
M: Yeah, with it being a new product and all. Designing a bag that incorporated wood is difficult. You need different techniques to put that thing together that you wouldn’t traditionally use.
What kind of steps are you taking to marketing this idea? How is this marketing concept unique?
M: We are getting a lot of musicians and artists to promote the products because they like it. That’s one avenue to get it into the face of fans.
P: Yeah, through celebrities and word of mouth are great marketing tools. We are also blasting it to blogs that are relevant to our style. We are also trying to get it onto online stores like Karmaloop. We are basically trying to get it to as many eyes as possible.
What do you think are some of the challenges of being in Canada, where the population isn’t as large as the States and even being Canadian may be detrimental?
M: Obviously, Canada is a smaller market than the U.S. I also find that Canada is a little more conservative than other parts of North America. Unsurprisingly, you will need a lot of individuals who are more adventurous to buy our product before you will have the other people follow. The smaller market makes it a challenge for sure. That’s why we are looking at a U.S. expansion.
How does the chemistry between the two of you work out? There’s a significant age gap between the two of you.
M: We have a good dynamic. We are pretty easy going so we are having fun most of the time. I think the dynamic works. Age is not really a factor because I am very immature.
P: Honestly, Matt is no different than one of my buddies our age. The way the guy talks, he’s a cool guy! The way that we work, it’s perfect. I come up with the crazy concept and he kind of calms it down and brings it to life.
Tell us your upcoming products. What’s next in store?
P: What we are trying to do now is to introduce wood, cotton canvas, metal and leather to our products. We are trying to fuse these materials together to make a new look. That’s all about what Nuestro is about.
M: We don’t want to be like any other band. We want to be very recognizable right away. We want something durable and that makes sense. We are not just using these materials to be different, but to incorporate functionality as well.
P: We want to stick with the basics. What’s needed is needed.
M: we are always thinking of new ideas. We are going to be doing other things.
P: Clothing, hats, and more accessories are coming on the way.
What is HYPE?
P: I guess you can call me a designer. People look up to me with my style and ask me what’s coming next. Really, I don’t have the answer to that kind of stuff. I don’t do my research. People always ask me about the latest collection in fashion lines. When people ask me what’s swag right now, I just tell them that I am doing me. I will rep what I feel is cool at the moment.
M: HYPE is when there is a collective interest and where people instinctively say “Wow, that’s cool.” Then, more and more people will latch on to something that they are drawn to.