Interview with TALLER NU Co-Founder, Pilar Obeso

TALLER NU Co-Founders Olga and Pilar

"Since we started the accelerator we have been doing customer interviews. I am really happy about the way people think and talk about our products... We have been learning a lot from talking with them ... "  -Pilar Obeso, ED of TALLER NU


Interviewee:Pilar Obeso - Co-Founder and Executive Director
Co-Founder:Olga Olivares Co-Founder and Creative Director
Additional Employees:+1 intern and a group of female inmates
Founding Date: 2012
Product Description:

One of a kind shoes and leather goods with soul and social impact. 











Creative Startups: What does creativity mean to you?

Pilar Obeso: I think it's a way of belief. For me it’s something that’s really present in everything I do from the way I try to communicate with others and the way we work with Taller Nu to develop our products and the way we communicate with the inmates we work with. We try to innovate in every possible way, making it more easy and accessible for people thinking more in a human perspective. To me creativity is a bunch of different situations and a way of thinking, developing different skills and tools for everyday life in different aspects like my professional life and personal life. And, just to be happy with what we do. I think one of the most important things about being creative is to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Just to be simple but that part I think is sometimes a bit tricky.

CS: What is your background? Where have you focused your creative energy in the past before Taller Nu?

PO: I am a fashion and textile designer. I’ve been working for 7 years now with one of the main women promoters for design and architecture here in Mexico, Ana Elena Mallet. She’s a design curator so I’ve been developing in that area. I have a background in design and architecture exhibitions, from furniture, products, textile and collaborative practices, so I have a really good relationship with the design network here in Mexico. One of my favorite projects so far is De ida y vuelta. Diseño contemporáneo en México.

I also coordinate a cultural event that happens twice a year. It’s called Corredor Cultural Roma Condesa. It happens in one of the main neighborhoods here in Mexico that is where everything has exploded, you know where the hip restaurants, and boutiques and art galleries are. We made this event for people to create their own route based on their interests and visit different venues, all related to the creative industry, by walking the streets of these boroughs.

"The idea is to explore boundaries between art and fashion and to create exceptional products for everyday life while teaching this self development processes and productive skills to female inmates..." -PO


CS: What product/service are you offering to customers?

PO: Taller Nu is a Design studio.The idea is to explore the boundaries between fashion and art to create exceptional products for everyday life while teaching this self development processes and productive skills to female inmates with whom we’ve been working for 3 years now. So the idea is to create values, awareness and economical opportunities to them in order to prevent possible recidivism.

We have done 3 collections now, 1 per year. We’ve been doing small productions, each production has been about 100 pairs, and some pre order shoes, so we’ve produced around 450 shoes and we only have 40 shoes left. So we’ve sold most of our product. We stopped last year to focus on our business model and learning more about how to build a business as Olga and I are both designers and we are not that good with money. Well at least that was not something that our college taught us, so we left school without much business backgroundIt's been very organic.

CS: Do you remember your very first sale?

PO: Yes, I remember it a lot because it was kinda special. The first person that bought something from us, she’s also a designer. She studied in the same college as we did but in a different year. She bought one of the first products we designed and a couple of years later she shared our studio with us, so it became a kind of coworking space for female designers. Now she is one of our best friends. And she is a really really really cool contemporary jewelry designer. Her name is Paulina López and she has this amazing brand called Rodete.

CS: Having talked with customers, how do their experiences with your product vary from what your expected?

PO: Since we started the accelerator we have been doing all these customer interviews. I am really happy about the way people think and talk about our products because the main reason they buy our shoes, or the other leather goods we are starting to design, is because they say they don’t find anything similar out there in the market and they like how they can go out to a business meeting, a party or just an everyday occasion and they know the probability for them to find someone with the same pair of shoes or the same aesthetic is not very likely. They like how they can stand out from the crowd with our products and how they are not only beautiful but they have really good manufacturing and the quality of materials are really good. We received this review from one of our customers a couple of weeks ago and he said that something he likes about our work, and that makes the difference, he thinks, between TALLER NU vs. "Mexican design" is that we don't sacrifice practicality over aesthetic, and vice-versa. Each design must deal with its reality. It is not the same walking the streets of CDMX as those of Paris. He walks a lot, and every day he walks through dirt, dust, constructions, puddles, etc. NU holds its own. I think that was a really good review.

CS: Has talking with customers made you see anything differently about your market than what you originally thought?

PO: I’m not sure our customers per se, but yesterday I had a call with Lena Ramfelt, one of our mentors and she said we were thinking so much in design and making beautiful products that we are not charging enough. Because of all the social impact we are trying to achieve. Talking with our customers about the amount of money they are willing to invest in the kind of products we are developing and the story that is behind these products kinda matches what Lena said yesterday. We’re not really communicating well enough what we are doing with the inmates and how that reflects the products we are developing.

CS: Is there any one thing from the accelerator program so far that has really made an impact for you?

PO: I think talking with the customers is something that Olga and I have been thinking since the beginning of the program. Mainly because we started designing and creating this studio and this brand just because we love designing and doing different thing and experimenting and working with the inmates and showing them how to learn different skills. Then we found that people are buying our products but we really didn’t take the time to test it. Even though it's a small production we could just do prototypes and talk with our potential clients and customers to learn more about what’s their opinion is on something and what they’re willing to pay. We have been learning a lot from talking with them, so I think that is one of the main things that has stuck with us since starting the accelerator.


CS: What is TALLER NU's mission?

PO: To teach different skills among female inmates in order for them to have a lot less possibility for recidivism. By designing and doing these self developed processes that have as a final result one of a kind and very unique products. I think one of the interesting things about our upcoming collection is that we're doing this artisanal process that is going to make the product one of a kind. But we are also doing an industrial process that will allow us to grow in extension to have more points of sales and capacity in terms of production.

CS: What core problem does your product solve and how is it going to make a difference in the industry?

PO: I think there are two problems. One of them is trying to help female inmates aviod returning to prison once they are out.  Mainly because they can’t find a job because they don't know any productive skills or they don’t have anyone that can give them reference because lack of work experience or employment. We’re solving that by teaching them different skills.

In the other hand, by learning and experimenting with different processes and designing these everyday products with one of a kind processes we are giving our customers the possibility to stand out as individuals. We are bonding a story with a product, the the idea is for the customer to have a real bond with their object, not just purchase another bag or another pair of shoes.


***TALLER NU is cleaning out their inventory to make room for their next capsule collection. Today they are having a flashsale and all items in their online store are on sale.  You can view their sale items here!***