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Q&A: Ballūta - Catarina Pedroso

Ballūta founder: Catarina Pedroso

1: How does Ballūta distinguish itself from other sustainably and vegan friendly footwear brands?

Ballūta was born after some years looking for sustainable vegan shoes and not finding what I wanted. I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 20 and started to look for vegan options for clothing and accessories a few years ago. I am also a city girl (loosely referring to myself like that, but I am actually turning 40 in a few months..) who likes to play with the way I dress and who usually gravitates towards unique designs. So this is the basis for creating Ballūta: a vegan and sustainable footwear brand of statement shoes.

2: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since starting the label?

To never give up. Even if today feels like nothing will turn out well in the future, you have to pull yourself up and start again as many times as it takes until you reach your goal. Also very important lesson learned more recently is to be open to changes in the expectations you had when you started or along the way. Projects evolve organically and you cannot control the outcome. I learned to keep the vision but to be flexible enough to try alternative paths that may still get you where you want to be.

3: We know you grew up in Lisbon. Would you say that there is a definitive Portuguese style? If so how would you describe it?

I wouldn’t say there is a Portuguese style. We’ve lived under a very conservative dictatorship until 1974 and were pretty astray from western societies developments. If something characterises us is a carefree, relaxed way of life that reflects in the way we dress.

4: You started Ballūta with your husband, how would you describe the creative process that you share? Do you both have separate roles in the business?

Actually the creative process is done by me. Ricardo had the idea to create a footwear brand because he knows me very well and realised I needed to get back to my artistic roots. I will thank him forever for being so clairvoyant and for trusting and always believing in me. With this challenge he proposed, I started to research immensely and creating the identity and storytelling behind the brand, something that is closely related to my personal history. Ricardo is more in charge of benchmarking analysis and of a more macro vision. He grasps the economical and business zeitgeist really well, it’s natural to him. We are also partners in another company and he is more dedicated to that business.

5: Do you have any advice for young designers wanting to start a label or business with their partner?

Be sure that your personalities combine and not clash, because there are challenging moments every day of your life, like never distinguishing between personal and professional time, identifying your partner as a colleague and not feel like enjoying your free leisure time with each other. It’s definitely a tough road. But to feel that we are doing this together, especially in a project that wants to shake the status quo and challenges us to be better, is really rewarding.

6: How would you describe the Ballūta woman?

I’ve met such incredible women since starting the brand, it’s actually one of the things that I most wanted to happen and really needed: to be inspired by strong, independent, forward-thinking women who like the designs and dare to use them while being actively engaged with a more conscious and sustainable way of life.

7: What advice would you give to a young emerging designer? 

I still feel like I am an emerging designer, Ballūta has been around for 1 year, so I don’t know if I have the necessary distance to give relevant advice to an emerging designer but here goes: always follow your instincts and chose to be involved in something that defies you to the core. Otherwise, it’s not worth wasting your time.

8: Do you have more of an intuitive or analytical approach to design?

This is a nice question. I actually think I have both. So, I start with analysing trends, but in a very fluid way, I don’t stick only to future trends but also to passed and historical trends. However, what sparks my desire to create is always a thought, always a need to communicate something, usually something my mind has been “mulling” on. At Ballūta, every collection has a concept behind it and a message, always related to sustainability, to a reflection on our way of life. There is also a lot of influence from my background as a graduated artist. I don’t design shoes just to design shoes, they are not just a product. They have multiple layers that you can choose to discover and that, in hope, add to the value of the shoes.

9: Your Algae Collection has a range of creative and interesting photos, could you please tell us more about the story behind? 

With Algae, we wanted to speak of the potential for change in stuff we don’t usually give any credit to. Algae have been used for millennia as fertilizer, medicine, water purifier treatment, oxygen production etc. This was a story we wanted to tell. I felt the way to tell it would be to create a sort of pre-raphaelite vision of Ophelia in a way the images could speak universally of the collection in multiple layers: visual, conceptual, historical, artistic... that is the sort of imagery we want to produce: something with meaning.