After Shanan Campanaro purged her New York apartment of furniture after a breakup, she was left with a TV, rug, cushion and a blank wall that inspired her to make her own wallpaper. About a year after installing that—and eventually more furniture—in her home, in 2008 she founded her textile design studio Eskayel, where she creates cult-favorite and eco-friendly wallpaper designs.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Central Saint Martins in London earned in 2003, Campanaro first dipped into the design world by creating fashion graphics and T-shirts. “I think I am actually truly a designer at heart,” Campanaro tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast.
Campanaro grew up surrounded by entrepreneurial spirit in San Diego, as her father, Tom Campanaro, founded Total Gym, an at-home exercise equipment company popularized by its infomercials. Equipped with experience working in the family business and a fascination for design, Campanaro brought Eskayel to life.
In the brand’s early days, Campanaro balanced her burgeoning business with a job in graphic design at women’s apparel retailer Express. She recounts a story, or rather a cautionary tale, of standing out in a snowstorm on her lunch break while on the phone with a celebrity client’s wallpaper installer, who informed her that she did not send enough wallpaper for the entire room. (She’d only made enough to cover the dimensions of the two walls they’d sent.) As a stressed small business owner, Campanaro ended up paying for the rest of the celebrity’s wallpaper herself. Her advice: “Ask if it’s the whole room.”
She was able to leave the job at Express in 2010, and with that move came growth for Eskayel. Along with custom wallpaper, by 2014 Campanaro had expanded the brand’s offerings to include rugs. Wallpaper is easy to develop, she says, but rugs are more technical and tactile, involving a series of new production hurdles: the dyeing process, making the sample, creating the full rug and photographing it to capture the luxurious material. With a new rug collection coming this fall, Campanaro hopes Eskayel will soon be considered a rug destination.
“It’s been a very long process, and it’s going to continue to be, but I love the rugs we’re making,” she says. “We have done some amazing projects, and we have some amazing rug clients,” says Campanaro. “And I am always in awe of how they look when they see the finished result.”
The challenges don’t stop when the production process is complete. Partnering with the right showroom can help your design brand thrive but courting showrooms can be costly and time-consuming, says Campanaro. For that reason, she’s stopped proactively seeking out representation and instead waits for interested showrooms to request and pay for samples. Eskayel’s longest relationship is with Studio Four NYC, a wallpaper and fabric showroom that got its start around the same time as Eskayel.
“They taught us a lot of what we learned about the interior design industry,” says Campanaro. “They’re still our biggest selling showroom. But aside from Studio Four, we haven’t had very many showrooms that do very well with our line.”
Elsewhere in the episode, Campanaro talks about Eskayel’s yearly sale, the brand’s exclusive wallpaper collaboration with Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and staying optimistic about your business amid rumblings about a recession. “I think if you’re always worrying about what you could lose, you’re kind of manifesting losing it,” says Campanaro. “So just don’t think about that too much as long as you have a plan.”
Homepage photo: Tom Rauner