Hunting for objects that integrate functionality, beauty and responsibility in their production is what the store’s owners have been doing since 2008, allowing Chandal’s perspective to grow with them
The meaning of Chandal’s name
The name Chandal came up as a joke. Its founders – Isabel Marín, Iván Moreno and Ángeles Ramos – wanted to find a name that did not express pretentiousness and had a sense of humor. Chandal means tracksuit: a type of clothing that oozes comfort, coziness and playfulness, linked to the aesthetics of the Eighties, a wink to kitsch and street fashion. When the store opened the name clicked, as Chandal carried a selection of vintage and memorabilia from that decade and the Nineties. On the occasion of its inauguration, the team bought a couple of shell tracksuits, cut them into squares, laminated them, and made customer cards that were accompanied by the photo of the tracksuit – a game that allowed their clients to find out which section they had.
The team behind Chandal draws its insight from the realm of art and commerce. The three have been friends since childhood: Chandal began as an adventure for them. In the 2000s Barcelona was a spot for design and art – but they could not find objects that aroused their interest anywhere in the city. Moreno and Ramos have a background in image, video and photography-making. Before embarking on the project, Moreno and Ramos worked as photographers, a field in which they operate to this day. Marín studied Art History and Japanese art and, after concluding her studies, she spent months traveling around Asia. During that period she started working in a home decor store and later worked in a company that exported Asian crafts. Marín’s experience in the industry was the source for her intuition of setting up a business: Chandal opened in 2008 with the idea of being a place where to find items that could not be found in Barcelona but the team would have liked to see. Their selection of products is infused with their individualities, inclinations and preferences. «We bring things we like, without looking at trends», explains Marín. Since the store’s opening date, the co-founder continues, «our taste has changed, without any doubt. We have grown, we have multiplied – we all have kids – and our needs evolved. Chandal is growing at the same time and pace as we are». The owners like to introduce novelty in their selection and shuffle the collection from time to time: when items work they stay, otherwise they get replaced.
The stock variety of Chandal’s store
One of the store’s strengths is its stock ranges – a choice that impacts the way customers experience the store and its ambiance. «Our clients tell us they like to come and look for Chandal’s latest additions. We let them touch and explore the store with freedom». The atmosphere in Chandal – from its music selection to the way the in-store experience is designed – encourages relaxation, and the enjoyment of its collection without rush. The team focuses its offer on quality items produced by respecting work ethics and the environment; objects designed with care that tell a story. Within the store’s premises visitors can find a selection of stationery, magazines and publications, home decor pieces such as vases and textiles, toys, clothing items, accessories and jewelry. But the hallmark of Chandal is its analog photography section. Before the birth of the project Moreno and Ramos studied photography, and it is a type of art that fascinates Marín. As the co-founder explains, «capturing a moment with that kind of realism and immediacy. Today everyone takes millions of photos without thinking about what they do. The process of taking a photograph with analog photography, on the other hand, is like a ritual. You have to select the camera and film you are going to use, and think about the light and place for the shoot. If it is worth spending a photograph for that, then you have to take the film to the laboratory to develop and wait. We’re not used to not having things right away. It puts our patience to work, and allows us to value an image».
The analog cameras’ section at Chandal
Marín’s fascination for analog techniques extends to Polaroids. The year Chandal opened Polaroid announced they would stop making films. The store had a shelf full of vintage cameras on sale, and the team thought their mission would be to share the magic and necessity inherent in instant photography: the potentiality of obtaining an image – in its physicality and tangibility – in a flash. Polaroids belong to the owners’ childhood memories. For their generation, the medium is imbued with nostalgia, symbolism and meaning. As Marín observes, its power resides in the way it continues to excite kids. According to her experience, people’s passion for point and shoot cameras is a phenomenon worth noting. «The boom in digital cameras and smartphones led photography to run out of its value. People take thousands of images during their holidays – pictures they will never look at again. When shooting on film, you have 36 photos that must be thought out before being taken. You might end up not liking all of them, but the ones that are going to stick with you are going to hold significance». A section of Chandal’s photography clients are teenagers who do not have an education on photographic techniques and do not want to complicate their relationship with photography by buying a reflex camera. As customers, they look for what they can’t find in the digital image. The store’s customer base includes professional photographers who are returning to analog for its texture – a characteristic pixels cannot achieve.
Chandal’s books picking criteria
In terms of printed publications, the team selects volumes and books on topics that spark their interest, together with photo zines made by creators who are beginning to publish their work and whose practice they believe in. Their criteria for picking what to sell in the store endorses independent magazines and titles that cannot be found anywhere else in Barcelona. When Chandal started selling magazines, as Marín remarks, finding that kind of publication in the city was a challenge. The store was the first to dare by stocking magazines that were starting out and nobody knew about. Now that this sector is flourishing, publications come out each month, as do the stores that sell them. That is why Chandal wants to offer lesser-known publications and give visibility to emerging talents. The founders’ interests comprise photography, food, design and travel magazines, «but magazines about dance or witchcraft have surprised us in the past. If a magazine can tell us things we didn’t know before, we like it even better». An aspect that Marín, Moreno and Ramos value in magazines is the layout and the attention given to photography: they affirm that any subject can be worth considering if it is approached through quality photography. Among the elements they take into account before acquiring a publication is the presence of advertising. In the owners’ perspective, when a magazine does not feature any it remains faithful to itself. Chandal’s range of printed items encompasses titles that can produce value for society by endorsing ethics and sustainability in their production, and by being respectful towards the multitude of cultures that populate our planet.
Chandal’s objects and stationery selection
The item assortment evolved in parallel with the owners’ lives. After they had children, they realized there was a lack of toys and objects for children that were designed with care without falling into stereotypes, and they decided to start looking for these types of objects, adding a selection of children’s items in their collection. «Children deserve toys that make them think, that let their creativity shine, that do not distinguish or limit them by their gender, and that raise their awareness towards ethics in consumption and production». Since the founders were spending more time at home, they wanted to be surrounded by items that made them feel good in the space they shared with their families. Living in that context made them discover the pleasure of being able to enjoy the beauty of an object while cooking, or while working at the office. Their way of selecting homeware, gadgets and stationery is a non-stop search for objects that fuse beauty and functionality which cannot be found in other stores. The store’s founders say that at Chandal people can find «objects for modern life from 0 to 99 years old». People searching for uniqueness in an object or on the lookout for a book that has a story to tell head to Chandal. The breadth in their clientele’s age range is a peculiarity that defines the ethos of the business, an element the owners are fond of. There are clients who do not reach their twenties, who have a passion for analog photography; people around their thirties and forties who like design, or clients over seventy who come to buy things for themselves and their grandchildren.
Chandal’s future projects
El Born, the neighborhood where the store is located, is known for its identity brimming with contrasts, merging history and innovation. Standing between Parc de la Ciutadella and the Catedral de Barcelona, the area’s streets and churches constructed in the Middle Ages – like the fourteenth-century Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar – coexist with cocktail bars, samba clubs, museums and institutions, among which stand the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern, the Museu Picasso and the El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria. As Marín notes, the neighborhood and Chandal’s activities benefit from the presence of tourists and people from outside admixing with its residents. Since Chandal’s adventure began, Barcelona has undergone a transformation that dissolved its «rogue touch», as Marín defines it, to make space for cleanliness and tidiness. In the owner’s perspective, the city’s art and design scene is asleep, but will rise again in the times to come. Facing the future, the store will keep following the philosophy it embodied, and the business model it developed through it, in its twelve years of activity. «We adapt to changes that affect us and our environment. We keep moving, without stopping nor running». Chandal will continue to bring objects made with taste that respond to our necessities – items that improve the way people experience their day-to-day and their everyday.IMAGE GALLERY
Carrer d’en Tantarantana, 16,
08003 Barcelona, Spain