Shannon Maldonado is the founder of Yowie, a Philadelphia-based retail shop centered around curating small collections from fellow artists and designers. Outside of the shop, she offers design consulting services and is the lead interior designer for Ethel’s Club — the very first social and wellness club created for people of color.
RE: THE MEANING OF YOWIE
Yowie is an Australian word meaning “Bigfoot.” I had about 128 names before I narrowed it down to Yowie, but I chose it because it’s a very exuberant word. It’s a happy word, and I find myself to be a pretty positive person, so it just spoke to me. It has no connotation here, just a weird word that can mean anything or be anything that we want it to be.
The funny thing is, right after I chose it there was another company that contested it. So I have a coexistence agreement with a chocolate company in Hong Kong. I think that’s really funny.
RE: ADVICE FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATION
There’s a lot of homogeneity in design right now and I think it’s really scary to have your own voice and be yourself. I always meet a lot of really amazing kids and students in the shop and they want to start their own business or build their own brand.
I always tell them: “Make sure it’s different.”
It’s important to make sure you have a really strong point of view and make sure you love it because it’s really hard work. I think Instagram sometimes makes it look sexy to be an entrepreneur, but at the end of the day, it’s a ton of work. While there are days that are really romantic and fun, there are also days where I miss the security of a paycheck and being able to take vacation days. I think being yourself and honing in on what you want to do is really important.
RE: BEING A CREATIVE OF COLOR
As a creative of color, I was honored to head all interior design for Ethel’s Club — the first of many spaces created for and centered on people of color. When designing the space, we looked to create an environment that felt warm immediately upon entering and featured references from cultures near and far. We are beginning to design Ethel’s Club’s second space in early 2020.
RE: HER (NOT SO) GUILTY PLEASURE
I’m into reality shows and I don’t feel guilty about it. I love Vanderpump Rules. I post clips of Vanderpump and Real Housewives all the time on my Yowie Instagram without shame. I’m like a secret teenybopper.
But, again I’m not ashamed of any of this. It’s just part of who I am.
I think The Real Housewives gets a bad rap, but it really is an interesting show about female friendships. The Real Housewives of New York is my absolute favorite. There’s no other show on television that shows women in their 50s dating in New York. These are women that are gorgeous, successful, in their 50s, and out on the town — it’s cool. None of them are pretending that they’re not the age that they are — they’re very proud of it. I love them all dearly.
RE: HER CREEPY ADDICTION
I have a fascination for cults, so I listen to this podcast called Cults on Spotify. As somebody who thought I had heard and seen about every cult that exists, they seem to find new ones that I’ve never heard of all the time. I’m just intrigued by human nature, and it’s interesting to me that someone could be drawn into something with tons of red flags or crazy things, yet they kind of ignore the signs and want to be part of that community or group. I’m very interested in things that are not like myself, and I find myself to be an independent thinker. I’m fascinated by how someone could be that easily swayed or drawn into someone else’s point of view.
RE: BEING MORE THAN JUST A CREATIVE
I just call myself “a creative” when people ask me what I do. If I were to lay it all out, I do curation, interior design, art direction and brand strategy. I love all things dealing with creativity. I love strategy.
I love the stuff behind the pretty stuff, so I like to mix those things together.
RE: THE FACE BEHIND THE BRAND
My personal mantra is: “It won’t fail because of me.” It’s borrowed from Ken Mattingly. My personality is so intertwined with my brand that Yowie is me and I am Yowie. Yowie is not going to fail because I’m the person behind it. I feel like I’m part of the equity, and it’s weird to think of myself that way. But at the same time, when people think of Yowie, they immediately see me. I tell myself that it is not going to fail because I am the driving force behind it.
RE: HOW SHE USES CLEO
I spent quite a few days sitting on Cleo prior to opening Ethel’s Club last Fall. I chose the Cleo Chair for its striking color and the fact that it feels like a modern take on classic chairs like the 4867 Plastic Chair by Joe Colombo. Since Ethel’s Club is a space with a constant stream of diverse programming, the stackable element of Cleo was a major plus.