Real talk: I'm sniffling through a travel-induced bug as I write this, which I picked up somewhere along my most recent Thanksgiving trip from Amsterdam to Chicago to Puerto Vallarta to Chicago and back again. As miserable as I feel at this moment, a little airplane cold could never curb my wanderlust ways. Having just returned from a trip to Montreal and Quebec herself, Shalina Chen of Brooklyn's Velvet Hippo chats with us about how travel has inspired her own work, explains the importance of balance in her designs, and shares what her pups are up to right this second.
Can you tell us about Velvet Hippo and why you decided to launch it?
My partner Jason and I decided to launch Velvet Hippo because we love our two dogs and have witnessed the change and impact a loving companionship can have on a human life. We wanted to return the favor by creating amazing products that both our furry friends and their humans can enjoy.
Explain your design aesthetic: what are some of your key influences?
My background is in fashion design, and Jason's expertise is in furniture design. Combined, our aesthetic is a balance between minimalism and brutalism, modern and vintage, with an appreciation for bespoke and timeless designs. We’re also committed to creating quality products, and dedicated to sustainability initiatives in manufacturing. We believe in embracing simplicity and minimalism, and stand behind our designs that enrich the interactions, and memories we share with our pets.
My sense is that you are a fellow globetrotter! How do your experiences abroad impact your work?
Whenever we travel, it’s usually a mix of work and leisure. We travel overseas quite a bit overseeing manufacturing and building artisan partnerships. I meet so many skilled craftsmen and expert factories, and it’s quite amazing to see the full cycle of how things are made. It’s definitely broadened my appreciation for other cultures, where materials come from, and how many resources are pooled together to bring an idea to life.
What is your favorite piece from your collection and why?
In the new year, we’re launching our hex cushion beds in a washed canvas fabric. The fabric is very sturdy & durable, and reminiscent of the canvas of a vintage toolbag. A definite favorite!
What are your fur babies doing right this second?
If they’re not smelling the dishtowels in the kitchen, they’re probably napping! They’re all about napping, and can practically fall asleep anywhere.
What's your guiltiest pleasure at the moment?
We just went to Montreal & Quebec and ate our hearts out. The food there is incredible almost everywhere you go, and there’s so much culture and history. It's easy to bike around Montreal in the warmer months, and there's this incredible spa & sauna on a boat in the Old Port neighborhood (a must!). We want to go there again with our pups, now that Montreal has lifted their pitbull BSL bylaw.