Kira Corbin is a prop stylist. Her ability to tell a story in a visually poetic way has landed her gigs with brands such as Parachute, Audi, and Food + Wine Magazine. Impressive. Through her work, she has amassed a personal collection of artisan finds that she uses on set to get the right shot. In 2020, Kira decided to venture out into retail, selling her favorite home goods at her recently opened store PILLAR on Belmont Street in Portland, OR. Her part industrial part turn-of-the-century style store displays a collection of artisan-made items of global provenance. We sat down with Kira to find out more about PILLAR.
What was your inspiration for opening up a brick-and-mortar?
There are sort of two sides to the inspiration: First, I find so many great things in the course of my styling work that I’m excited about and want to share. Often times on photo shoots, we’ll build sets of entire rooms that are gorgeous and inspirational and once the photo is taken we break them down and they disappear. It always feels a little sad that those spaces aren’t real and don’t get to be enjoyed by real people.
Second, I also believe that all of us should elevate and enjoy our everyday routines. All of the little things and moments add up. We shouldn’t drink our morning coffee out of a mug we hate. We shower every day; we should really enjoy it with a luxurious feeling soap. We should build a home that feels like a reflection of ourselves and makes us feel calm, comforted, and happy to be there.
PILLAR comes from a place of passion for what I do and want to share. The shop is curated through the filter of my professional experience, my personal style, and my vision for a life well lived.
How long was it from the moment you decided to have your own store to when you opened to the public
I had mused over the idea of a shop for several years but once I decided to actually take the leap it took a little over a year for me to have the storefront ready to launch.
What were some of the difficulties that you had to overcome and what were some of the lessons learned?
Retail is a completely new industry for me so I am generally learning tons. I have a feeling that many of the difficulties and lessons are yet to come. With COVID happening this year, the launch of the business has been much slower than anticipated and feels a bit like I’m still in a holding pattern.
What was the space like before you took over? Did you have to make any changes to the interior or the exterior
Not any huge changes. I think some businesses may have really overhauled the space, but I love the raw industrial and modern look of the space – the concrete floors, large black metal windows, and high ceilings… I’ve even left all of the pipes and cords exposed. The space is deeper than the shop portion is, which is why I had the grey wall built to divide it into two sections. I house my prop collection for styling in the back.
Tell us about the products that you carry in the store and how do you source them? Where do you find new vendors and products?
The guiding ethos is to offer beautiful, purposeful, and enduring objects to enhance life’s daily routines. PILLAR stocks considered items that are made of quality materials – wool, linen, clay, marble, wood, paper, brass – made by hand by artisans in manufacturing processes that support and preserve craftsmanship, processes that consider sustainability, etc. There is a focus on items that have a meaningful story behind them and are artful, useful everyday objects: A hand made mug, a thick woolen blanket, a trusty kitchen knife, an all-natural soap or candle. Products are sourced locally and sourced abroad, mostly new and some vintage.
I’ve been exposed to so many products through my career as a prop stylist and have found many of the vendors along the way. I also find so many more items and brands through my travels. I’m always on the hunt! Occasionally I even find new brands or makers on Instagram. I haven’t been to a trade show yet, but perhaps one day.
How has your store been affected by COVID and what have you done to stay afloat or even grow during these uncertain times?
PILLAR was slated to open mid-March of this year, which is when many areas went into lock down across the United States. The shop opening was delayed but in June I did start opening on the weekends. Traffic was very slow due to so many factors. It’s always going to be slow going for a new business at first but I think people weren’t really getting out in the same ways that they were when life was ‘normal’. So, after a number of weeks I decided to switch to shopping by appointment. I will open more during the holiday season and I do open occasionally on Fridays or Saturdays and post about it on Instagram in advance.
The big COVID pivot for me has been to develop an online shop. I had always planned to add an online shop as some point later down the road but it wasn’t a priority until, suddenly, after a year of preparing, I wasn’t able to open to my storefront to the public. I thought, if people can’t come to the shop, then I will bring it to them. Preparing the website and photography was a fun challenge of presenting the shop and concept in a totally different format. Instagram has also been a great tool to offer an experience of the shop and connect with people in a more socially distant and digital way.
Since we’re approaching the holidays – what is your favorite item from your store to give as a gift?
Too hard to decide! Everything in the shop is very giftable and I love packaging things up to feel extra special. I have given the Portuguese Wool Blankets to more than a few friends, and I love the elegant simplicity of gifting Beeswax Taper Candles. The Stone Bowls, made from native Portuguese marble, are definitely a personal favorite and are useful in so many ways (in the kitchen for salt, for keys, as a place to rest jewelry…) that they are a great gift. I also love helping people choose gifts and offer a ‘personal shopping’ service where I will respond to email inquiries with photos and suggestions of product combinations.
Head to our slideshow to take a virtual tour of PILLAR or head to the online shop to find some great gift/self-gifting options.