In the past year, many of us became a little too comfortable in how we dressed. Now that we’re re-entering the world, however, we have to reconcile the easy style of dress we’ve become used to with looking pulled together. In our living spaces, the same idea is going to apply, even as thousands of Americans used all of that extra time shut in to clear out all kinds of accumulated clutter that no longer give one joy. While this leaves a blank canvas and a lot more room to breathe, a bit of one’s individuality may be stripped away in the process.
South African-born/Los Angeles-based interior designer Shani Moran gets it. Just as folks are now redefining their personal appearance starting with high-quality basics and adding in carefully curated accessories, Moran says the same things are happening in their home spaces. This is where her collection, Pillow Pops (pillowpops.com), comes in and adds back personality in a way that is as effortless for her customer. While using accessories to personalize one’s surroundings and make things cozier, however, selecting those made with higher quality materials that can readily be mixed and matched. And if visiting friends, family and associates think you’ve hired an interior designer, so much the better.
“All of the redecorating and decluttering going on during COVID, has provided so many people with the impetus to change up their environment, and by extension, their outlook on life. I believe every object carries some kind of energy, and removing items that are not providing good energy is a step in the right direction,” she says. “Adding fewer, but more striking, items that harmonize together brings positivity and, perhaps, a sense of accomplishment. Then there is the energy our (employees and designers) bring to the creation of the pillows. As everything can be mixed and matched, updating your place can be as much fun as taking the souvenirs you’ve from your travels or life milestones and pulling them together in a way that expresses who you are but also looks polished and thought out.”
As Moran sees it, there’s a certain luxury about changing your décor as effortlessly as you can do with outfits every season. The interior designer, who has worked with a number of celebrities and was commissioned to create set pieces for the Grammy Awards, points out that when she and her team first developed the fabrics for Pillow Pops at specialized mills, they raised a lot of eyebrows, especially from a merchandising point. Even when fielding some doubt on if the concept would work, she stood by her proposition that luxury home décor could be accessible without being “mass.”
“If you look at the imagery that we have on the website, you’ll notice the backdrop—a neutral sofa—is the same, but the addition of different sets of pillows dramatically changes the atmosphere and personality of a space,” she says. “The message that I want to get across is that adding in a few simple but richly executed decorative items can create a huge impact. You should dress your home just like you dress yourself, personalizing your wardrobe foundations with colors and designs that speak to your personality. This is more true than ever as we’ve spent more time in our homes in the past year, and whatever we bring into this space will impact how we feel about ourselves and our lives.”
Although some still dress to impress others, she believes we’re re-emerging into a new normal where the most important person one should impress is herself. If this idea sounds like something a therapist would say, you’d be spot on as Moran is also an experienced psychologist. When creating something as personal as decorative items, it’s important to provide some justification as to why a customer should spend a little extra. Moran explains how her psychology background has opened her up to catering to customers with diverging tastes and life experiences, and why she offers both pillow collections and individual pillows.
“There’s a lot involved in how individuals choose things for their homes and the wardrobe, which is why there’s a lot to consider when developing every pillow and pillow collection, from the feel of the fabric to the distinctiveness in the designs alone and when mixed with other. We think a lot about how we approach designing the fabric, what kind of threads do we want to incorporate into a specific pattern? Combining unexpected things that work is a big thing, as you’ll see that we have combinations such as chenilles or velvet on linens as well as velvets and chenilles, which is very unusual in the textile world. The process of creating Pillow Pops comes specifically from the complexity of the human mind, and the human mind has always intrigued me.”
As more people look to transform their living spaces into sanctuaries, especially in a year where it has been challenging to travel, Pillow Pops can also be a way to ‘travel,’ whether décor is intended to reflect one’s past or future travels. A comforting-yet-elegant room can also be an escape from whatever is in the headlines as well as a means to explore different cultures.
“While I was born in Israel, growing up in Johannesburg exposed me to such a broad mixture of cultures, aromas, aesthetics, and ideas, even just by traveling on the roads of Johannesburg en route to somewhere else,” Moran says, looking back on what informed her entrepreneurial career path. “On one side of the road, you can see those beautiful villas, and on the other side, you can see shacks. Everything that you see, smell and touch expands your mind and your heart to all walks of life. In my approach to design, I’m able to collect and merge together different elements and factors from varying design styles coming out of that beautiful salad of people and cultures.”
Like many South African Jewish families during the Apartheid years, Moran’s family were very conscientious of what was happening in society as a whole. Through everyday activities and bigger political gestures, they did what they could to change the political system and make their society more egalitarian as a whole, without compromising the myriad of cultures that gave their country its personality and identity. Moran says this upbringing, and the way her parents and relatives ran their businesses, formed the underpinnings of her company. She describes it as a belief system that can bring abundance to everyone while being creative.
Her father was in the textile design and development industry, supplying fabrics to all spheres of the industry, at every price point. Being aware of what was available to her, in turn, provided an infrastructure to use “supreme quality fabrics” to create an affordable way to make practically any space, anywhere in the world luxurious.
“If you look at the (home design) industry as a whole, what separates us is how we set out to revolutionized home décor by giving every customer the ability to mix and match different textures and fabrics like velvet, vegan leathers, chenilles, and jacquards (for a personalized look),” Moran continues. “Even with unexpected mixes of materials, each grouping is approachable and harmonious to the eye because they are in the same color family. Originally, when I designed the fabric to cover the pillows, I didn’t yet see them as collections. But then when I was sitting with all my fabrics surrounding me, I naturally gravitated to creating these color-matching collections and then giving them a lot of depth.
Moran estimates that about 90% of her staff are women. In addition to praising them for the creativity and collaboration they bring to the shop, she observes being surrounded by like-minded people in a workplace helps everybody involved strengthen their self-esteem—something that’s definitely a shared goal among good psychologists who care about those around them.
“I am a leader in a sense that I like to create leaders around me,” she explains. “In an operation like Pillow Pops, if we are going to put in the kind of investment needed to give it legs, is not going to be a one-person show. The success of a business is based on its people, and the success of our business is based on every single person who contributes towards it. Through the philosophy behind Pillow Pops and as a person of the Jewish faith, we are obliged to give a tenth of our profits to good causes, and I keep to that. As I grew up being exposed to the harshest of human conditions, poverty, and abuse, it’s my absolute responsibility, and my team, to share our strength with those who need extra help. If we are born with an abundance of means or power in any particular way, we should share that strength with the world.”
While more new collections, groupings, and designs are on the horizon, Moran recently picked back up on a philanthropy-focused project pillow collection inspired by the work of African artists. She describes it as, “a huge celebration of color, patterns and culture intended to draw awareness of and support for impoverished communities and from people who would otherwise would never be able to expose their art in the world. It has the potential to bring the art of people from forgotten places to light by giving them a stage to present…it through our art pillows anybody can display at home with pride.”