Imagine if you could predict trends? As the founder of Pattern Pulp Studios (a leading New York trend forecasting studio which has worked with the likes of Clinique, Estee Lauder, Google and Lululemon), that’s exactly what creative director and brand strategist Shayna Kulik does for a living...
It has been an exceptionally busy year for Kulik. In addition to running Pattern Pulp Studios, she became a mother for the first time to Maximilian (now seven months) and has just launched her new book Pattern Studio. A “guide to seeing patterns in our surroundings and using them as inspiration to create your own”, the book features the process of 50 extraordinary designers from across the world.
She credits her creative drive and ambition to her upbringing. When she was three years old, her parents separated and she moved to Rhode Island to live with her grandparents. “From day one, they were incredible – truly my biggest cheerleaders and most stable support system. They did everything they could to normalize my childhood and get me off on the right foot,” she recalls. She also says that being raised by her grandparents, who were more than 60 years older than her, shaped her perspective on life. “I became independent faster, spent a lot of time making things on my own, and just generally worked really hard to live up to their high expectations. Though I didn’t necessarily have specific goals in mind as a teenager, I wanted to prove that I could make it on my own as a creative person while also making a positive impact on the world. I’d say my grandparents, and going to a creative arts school in Providence instilled that in me.” Her grandfather, an ex-window dresser inspired her “make-or-fix-anything-on-the-fly attitude” while her grandmother taught her “the art of patience as well as the know-how: practice makes perfect”. “I’m learning that these are equally important elements of motherhood!” she says, with a laugh.
Kulik reflects that she always wanted to be a mother. “Though I had never mapped it out in my head, I had hoped I would get pregnant while my grandparents were still alive.” Her journey to motherhood was longer than she had anticipated. “It included two very sad miscarriages, then two more years of trying. As life would have it, I got pregnant two months after my grandmother passed away. I recall her telling me that life would happen the way it was supposed to… and to just relax. It saddens me that they never met, but I have to believe both of my grandparents are looking down and beaming,” she says.
We visited the inspiring Kulik and her son at her artfully decorated home in New York to find out more about her new book, the biggest trends in colour and pattern right now, and how motherhood has changed her life…
What's the best advice you’ve ever been given about motherhood?
I’ve read this in so many places and multiple friends have said the same thing… that your baby will feed off of your energy. I’m generally a pretty mellow but particular person, and so far I’ve tried to approach motherhood with the same attitude.
What’s a typical morning like in your house?
We’re very lucky, Max is a good sleeper, so unless something unexpected happens, Max generally wakes up to eat at 7am. I shower at night to cut that out of the morning routine and get out of bed at 6:30am. I warm the milk I’ve pumped from the night before while my husband Justin changes Max’s diaper. We both whistle Revelry to him at 7am as we open the shades to let him know it’s time to wake up. When I did it at first it seemed like a silly little thing, but he’s come to look forward to it every morning and it’s a wonderful way to start the day – with him flashing a wide toothless smile before getting his bottle! I then pump while sipping coffee, as I read emails and listen to NPR. After I’m done, I get dressed, throw on a bit of makeup and if the timing works, Max and I walk Justin to the subway. As soon as I get home at 9am, I hand Max off to our wonderful nanny, Grace, to then focus on work.
How did your career change after you became a mother?
I’m still figuring things out! I started working eight weeks after having Max, maybe to prove that I could “do it all” right away. In retrospect, it was a bit too soon. I was still recovering physically, in a mental blur of exhaustion, as Max wasn’t yet sleeping through the night, and juggling deadlines, breastfeeding, and trying to be professional. At month six, things are starting to appear more balanced. I wouldn’t say I’m more or less career-focused, but will say I try to be more efficient with my time. Many other working mothers have told me that every minute of the day is accounted for. I’ll second that! Time management and mirroring it to Max’s daily schedule has been one of the biggest changes to my work/life balance. I will say though, finding my creativity again after Max has been very fulfilling… also having a book slated for release after his birth has been a healthy fire under me to keep the pace going strong.
Can you tell us about your new book Pattern Studio?
I partnered with the publisher Chronicle Books a year ago and have been working on a book that helps get people off their digital technology long enough to explore, create and appreciate pattern design. I challenged myself to go beyond the artists I already respect and admire, to discover and showcase new talent from around the world. Including Australia was such an easy part of the project. Emma Lipscombe, Bonnie and Neil and Billie Justice Thomson all share a graphic and vibrant mood that I love.
Can you tell us about your business Pattern Pulp?
I had long been tracking print and pattern design — both personally and professionally — and started posting trends I was spotting online. The blog really connected with creative directors, art directors, designers, museum curators and artists from all walks of life. One thing led to the next and a bedding company asked me if I could come give a talk on pattern design and when they asked me how much I would charge I realized there was potentially a business here! Over the years I’ve had the chance to work with brands big and small including Clinique, Google, Lululemon, Rent the Runway and Steven Alan. While pattern spotting is still a focus, most of our work is now in designing unique patterns and developing creative strategy.
What are some of the biggest trends in colour and pattern right now?
At the moment, there seems to be a sharp contrast between popular styles. There’s a primary color-blocked trend going on right now that’s very digital-friendly (a la Kapitza, Tilman and Matt W. Moore). It utilizes geometrics and white space generously. In another sphere, there’s a holistic, abstract movement happening that merges nature and the human touch. It exists beautifully in home as well as health and wellness (Helen Dealtry, Ana Montiel and Morgan Carper). In another corner, there’s a clever, defiant and feminist trend that’s resonating with both genders in the millennial category (Will Bryant, Tuesday Bassen and Monica Ramos).
How far in advance do you forecast trends?
It depends on the client… when it’s digital, the lead-time is much shorter… about 3-6 months. When tangible products are being made overseas, the forecast should be relevant at least one and a half to two years in advance. Forecasting is all about timing in conjunction with product development. If you “predict the future” too quickly, the public will be tepid to try something new. Understanding the nuance of how trends evolve over time – and how long they’ll stick around is a big part of behind-the-scenes research and development process.
What is the most challenging part of running your own business?
Managing a team! Projects ebb and flow and I’ve mostly hired on an as-needed basis. A consistent set of staff would keep the ball moving forward and is something I hope to implement this year.
Did you take maternity leave after Max was born?
I was completely off for eight solid weeks and was (very limited) part time for another eight. It was after four months that I really felt like I could start devoting more of my headspace to work again.
What are your time management tips?
I would say having a clear separation of work and family time so I can fully appreciate both has been a critical part of the process, but I’m learning as I go.
What is your approach to health and wellbeing?
Before Max, I was very devoted to health and fitness. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time and would regularly go to spin, lift weights and run along the water of the west side highway. A few years ago, while working on a rebrand project for Lululemon, I was introduced to this incredible boot camp meets yoga workout called ‘the class.’ It was an interesting and wonderful merging of worlds in terms of finding a community of like-minded creative and career-focused women. It was also a mindful and serious sweat. After getting pregnant though, I had to take it down a few notches and find a less intense workout… I started going to prenatal Pilates. It became the outlet I needed and a great match for my changing body. I went religiously. Post Max, it’s been a challenge to find the right routine since I don’t have much free time, but I’m hopeful that I can settle back into one again soon.
What has becoming a mother taught you about life?
It has unlocked a very special and bright part of life I didn’t know existed… it has also kept me in complete awe of life’s cycle.
What are your daily beauty essentials and how long does it take you to get out the door in the morning?
Mario Badescu’s cucumber face wash and SPF moisturizer for day, SK face moisturizer for night, Stowaway Concealer and blush (which doubles as lipstick), Glossier’s brow brush and Lancome mascara. When I’m running late, only the brow brush, concealer and blush. For the whole routine with clothing, I can do it in 15 minutes flat!
Tea or coffee?
One shot Americano. Allows for two coffees a day if I need it (since I’m still pumping).
What’s your definition of success?
Being surrounded by people who inspire you in all facets of life… AND feeling pride in your work.
What did your grandparents teach you about life?
Being raised by grandparents, 60+ years older than me, really shaped my perspective on life. My grandfather, an ex-window dresser inspired my make-or-fix-anything-on-the-fly attitude and my grandmother taught me the art of patience as well as the know-how: practice makes perfect. I’m learning that these are equally important elements of motherhood! There is one other thing my grandmother also talked about… she told me not to forget my husband after having a baby – she said that if I had done a good job, my child would be loving but independent and that the couples that only focus on their children have more complications over time.
How would you describe your home?
Creative, yet modern. My husband and I collect bits and pieces from our travels that find their way into our home. A Keith Haring poster from the Malmo Art Museum’s gift shop, a mask from the side of the road in Myanmar, a clock from Berlin and for Max’s room, a graphic decal from Paris. I most recently painted the walls and stained the floors white to let these items and other art pop.
What are your fashion essentials?
As a new mom, I’m wearing Birkenstocks almost every day this summer. Otherwise, Steven Alan linen dresses, Morgan Carper tops and bottoms help me feel put together, some vintage pattern pieces and a Mansur Gavriel bag (I treated myself to after Max was born).
Shayna's little list of loves:
A three part ring my husband gave me to symbolize our growing family.
The Solly Wrap for making it easy to move with Max on the go.
The Brooklyn Public Library for its excellent (and free!) programming for babies.
Tilda All Day—a fantastic cafe in Clinton Hill that serves Parlor Coffee and incredible homemade pastries.
Citibike for getting me to meetings on time.
Outdoor Voices for their smart brand of athletic gear.
Our dishwasher—a true luxury after a decade of washing every dish by hand.
Max’s smile every morning.