Karla Zapata Sasso, creator of PanalStore
"All products tell a story that goes beyond their creation and that begins in a place in Chile"
Traditions, cultural diversity and geographical contrast is what defines the identity of this South American country: Chile is on the edge of the world, and this is how Karla, founder of PanalStore, an online store of design products, handmade and sustainable, lives it and transmits it.
The backpacks, socks or gloves contain stories of idealism, determination and the desire to generate change in the industry. These are the values pursued by the creators, all of them Chilean, and the same ones that motivated Karla to undertake this humble and honest initiative, in the heart of Amsterdam.
Karla, How did all start?
We moved in 2017 from Santiago to Amsterdam, because my husband's work. I had never been to the Netherlands and I wanted to take some time to settle in, and to be able to be with my children in that transition period. After quit my job in Chile, I decided to fulfill one of those dreams that we often have, which due to work and daily routine, never become a reality. And that is how I decided to set up PanalStore. My idea focused on creating a store that would be a window for those Chilean designers who respect the process of manufacturing their products, and to show that there are young talents who seek to create conscious products with their own identity.
I started from scratch, contacting the brands that I liked back in Chile, and discovering others, all of them were very interested. Then I registered my business in the kvk, I made my website ... and all this without previous experience, step by step and enjoying the process, not without some stumbling blocks, of course! I remember spending hours building the website telling myself "what have I gotten myself into!" But finally everything went very well and soon after I was already selling in the design markets of Amsterdam.
What is special about this store that you created a little over a year ago?
With PanalStore I want the process of buying a product to have a greater impact than just buying something new. The products in my store tell stories, not only do I sell products of Chilean origin, but all of them are made by a new generation of designers who promote a more responsible consumption, rooted in the local economy and innovation.
I love the concept of joining together. If several small-scale entrepreneurs who share the same ideal unite together, each one contributing from their particular area of knowledge, without a doubt the impact will be positive. It was whilst I was still living in Chile that I began to visit different small businesses and to change my habits of consuming, in a more conscious and sustainable way. Selling these products here allows me to stay connected with my country and with what is being designed there. PanalStore seeks to be a showcase and a bridge between each of those Chilean entrepreneurs in this part of the world. Contributing something so that each of those dreamers continue to create quality products is very rewarding.
Why did you call your shop PanalStore?
The name refers to the honeycomb, because that's how I see this type of project, as a community where together we are building a hive. My store does not aim to obtain great economic benefits, I am inspired by the spirit of fair trade. PanalStore is a transparent space from which we all benefit, and above all, where creators can make themselves known. It is a store with which I not only want to show what is currently being done in Chile in the field of author design and the creation of sustainable products, but also aims to reach all that public with a less impulsive purchase, of smaller scale and more durable.
How has your store been received in Amsterdam, where fair and sustainable trade has a long history?
It has been good and positive experience, all products are just to people’s tastes. They are able to tune in with customers who are more informed, who are looking for something different, and who tend to be more aware of the importance of meaningful shopping.
Your products come directly from Chile, how do you manage the logistics?
All the products that are available on the website they are already in the Netherlands. Therefore, whoever purchases it from here or from any other place in Europe will be able to receive them the next day or within a period of 3 to 4 days. To make an extra mark, I try to add an experience when receiving a product from PanalStore, for example, I hand make the fabric bags in which the backpacks are sent, so I not only make sure that they arrive in perfect condition, but that it is sent with care. If someone wants to send a product as a gift, I make sure they bring another type of packaging, a note or whatever the client wants, that is precisely the value of a small business, which can be more personalized. Although the Chile-Netherlands logistics have taken longer as a result of the pandemic, fortunately I already have all the products with me and ready to go this autumn-winter.
Tell us about the four brands you sell.
I sell backpacks, rings, socks, gloves and natural wool insoles. All of them are very carefully selected and meet several or all of the conditions that I consider essential to sell a product: they are made by hand, they are sustainable and durable products, manufactured locally in Chile, plastic free and with a defined identity seal. Socks and gloves are the products that are sold the most in the markets, perhaps because of how colorful they are. And the backpacks are definitely the ones that most valued, due to their characteristics, by the people who buy them.
Has the pandemic affected your sales?
The online business has not been affected, but it has affected the sales in the markets, since practically all have been canceled. It is unfortunate because it was a good opportunity to physically expose the products, but today the important thing is everyone's safety.
Could orders be made from Spain as well?
Yes of course, I have come to send my products to Australia! Shipping costs are charged separately, according to the rates that PostNL has for national and European shipments.
What next step will PanalStore take?
My idea is that in the future, it will also be a physical store. I have started by selling in markets and now I am looking at the possibility of participating in one of the many pop-up stores that are usually organized in Amsterdam. And in the future I would love to have a physical space from which to transmit this idea of fair and sustainable trade.
The MajoC rings are from a designer from southern Chile. Her rings are 100% biodegradable, made from a vegetable resin and produced with a 3D printer. Due to her commitment to the environment and the originality of her designs, these rings are displayed at the Chilean Fashion Museum.
Socks and gloves “Vuelvo al sur”
They are the creation of a married couple who left their conventional jobs to start their own business. They realized that there was no product, beyond the most typical souvenirs, that transmitted Chilean history and culture in a functional and fun way. And so they began to design and produce these socks and gloves whose designs, cheerful and original, represent the Chilean fauna and culture. From socks with the Patagonian penguin to gloves for children with the chucao, an Andean bird, all their designs are exclusive, very comfortable and also, they add color to winter!
Urban Austral Insoles
These Patagonian insoles are handcrafted by a community of women who live in the southernmost tip of Chile. They come from a place that usually has movement and economic activity only in the summer months. To continue the activity in winter, they came up with this new source of income with which these seven women make wool accessories from their sheep. They make from blankets to these insoles for footwear, which being 100% wool are thermoregulatory, are very warm in winter and cool in summer, antibacterial, naturally insulating moisture and anti-perspirant, they can also be washed in the washing machine. Patagonia insoles are made to last.
The base is made with leather from waste from the food industry in the area. And as a clarification: they fit well in the usual foot size.
These handmade backpacks are the creation of two brothers who have reinvented the family tradition. His grandfather started working with leather making shoes, and his parents made other accessories such as purses and handbags. They not only learned the trade but were also the first in the family to be able to access a university education, thanks to the effort and work of their parents. One of them, a teacher by profession, decided to create a brand and began to design and manufacture these backpacks, which they baptized with the diminutive of the name of his mother, Rebeca. The personal treatment remains the same as before but with a renewed style. The backpacks are completely waterproof, are sold in three different sizes and have several compartments, including for the laptop.