Name: Sabrina Burda and Noelle Pallais
Age: 28 and 25
Current location: New York, NY
City you were born in or raised: Sabrina: I was born and raised in New York City, but my family is German. I grew up bilingually, and spent every year—especially the summer months—in Germany with my family and immersed in the culture.
Noelle: I was born in Lima Peru, but also raised in New York. Like Sabrina, I spent every year going back and visiting with my family in Peru and also very much identify with my Peruvian background and culture.
Social Media Handle: @rac.lifestyle
Please tell us about your previous work history before launching Random Acts of Creativity: Noelle: After finishing my Bachelor’s, I went to Paris to study fashion business at Istituto Marangoni. Having interned for stylist George Cortina, Oscar de la Renta, Stella McCartney and working as a fashion market assistant at Vogue US, fashion has always been my true passion. Although not traditionally trained as a designer, I have always been inspired to create pieces that I envision in my closet, which is why I am perusing a small line, all made in Peru with the intention to also give back to my local community.
Sabrina: After finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I continued my studies at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, associating myself with independent artists. Early on, I was inspired by my great grandmother’s timeless elegance and legacy with Burda Moden. I worked as an assistant in the production of fashion events, such as W Magazine and the launch of H&M Martin Margiela. On a recent voyage to Japan, I discovered a unique independent Japanese designer who sparked my aspiration to support young creators.
Please tell us more about RAC: Random Acts of Creativity is a nomadic storefront showcased like a gallery that brings together a curated selection of designers, artists, and covetable items. With a passion for travel, culture, and discovery striving to reach across cultural borders, RAC exhibits creative and authentic work. It all began with our mothers (long time friends) bringing us together, as they realized we shared a common vision to support young creative minds. Realizing we had a lot of friends and family with their own brands and artisanal craftsmanship, we sought to curate and eclectic platform to tell their stories. We launched in December 2015 in the heart of the Lower East Side. Our intention is to create spaces where you step away from the norms of traditional retail and art exhibitions. Every space starts as a blank canvas that completely transforms itself, altering like a gallery, but selling like a store. We plan to grow by launching an e-commerce platform and going beyond NY. We dream to do a Pop-Up in LA, Peru, and London someday!
When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? It was never really decided—it was something that came to us after our mothers (long time friends) linked us together realizing we had similar ideas. It has been a very intuitive experience since the beginning with a lot of learning along the way.
What are your favorite aspects to working for yourself? What are some of the challenges? Travelling is a passion for both of us, and having the chance to create our own experiences and discover new cultures and artisans along the way is definitely one of the best parts of working for ourselves. We can shape our own vision and decide when and where we want to pop up next, and work around our own schedules. We have had the chance to come across and meet many amazing people so far. Part of the difficulty with following your own instincts is taking risks and not having anyone to guide you. We have to manage our own time and often try to create timelines for ourselves that can end with many long days and nights, especially leading up to the pop ups. We are also both very hands on, we want to make sure that everything is in order, and so we are in the shop everyday. As an entrepreneur, you take on many roles, instead of having just one position. We have to often step out of our comfort zones and learn things the hard way, but as a result, we learn to take control and do our best to figure out the right solution.
Tell us about your recent NYC pop up experience. Where can we expect you to be popping up over the next year? Our last pop up was located on 345 Broome Street in NYC during the month of December! We were there during the month of June, before our partnership with Theory in East Hampton—so Broome Street has started to feel quite homey! However, you can expect us popping up in the Hamptons this summer—a place both Sabrina and I call our second home!
How do decide on which artisans to showcase? Having the chance to manage our time, we’ve been able to travel quite a lot—not just for the sake of pure enjoyment, but also for finding hidden treasures along the way! Wandering through Colombia to South Africa and Spain, we have found quite delightful belongings to stock our shelves!
Do you curate the selection of goods or do you ask the artisans to design specifically for your customers in mind? Walk us through the process a bit! The process is quite simple: we come together and research for curious goods we both enjoy. Within our selections, there are usually a few reoccurring themes from which we curate to tell the different stories of our selections and treasures.
Please us more about some of the cultures you’re working with and highlighting. Why did you choose these cultures? Having a European and South American partnership has helped us focus on a common vision that highlights both of our cultures. We don’t necessarily pick them—rather they are part of us. For example, we work with a good Colombian friend who makes one of a kind mochila bags, and a Philipino family friend who just launched her brand of one of a kind beach pants! Sabrina recently found an underground artisan in Italy during her last visit that makes the softest scarves. Essentially, we represent a mesh of a customer if you were to put us two together!
Are there plans to bring new artistic visions and cultures to RAC in the future? We both love Asian culture and dream of exploring China!
Noelle: “I also speak Mandarin, so I kind off have to go.”
What’s your favorite place to visit for a business trip and why? Noelle: Although I don’t travel to Peru for business, it always a place that inspires me with new visions and business ideas.
Sabrina: The favorite visit I have had for a business trip was to Cartagena, Colombia. It felt like vacation, but I also really had the chance to discover a new culture, and fell in love with the style and the artisanal craftsmanship and colors. The old town is full of vibrant stores and street markets, and has delicious food and music everywhere.
What about for a vacation? Noelle: After our summer pop up in June, I was lucky to escape for a brief vacation to St. Barths with some of the girls helping out at the shop! It was heavenly.
Sabrina: Difficult to say. I love visiting new cities, but also like being in a quiet countryside or up in the mountains! I could honestly be happy vacationing anywhere that makes me feel like I can shut my mind off for a bit. In the winter I do love to ski, and going with a few friends into a cozy mountain town such as Jacksonhole Wyoming—or Zurs in Austria is one of the best vacations. I also love going to a quiet tropical beach and have very fond memories of traveling to Barbados with my family when I was younger.
Best hotel you’ve ever stayed in? Noelle: The Monasterio in Cuzco!
Sabrina: Most recently I went on a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina and stayed in the Jardin Escondido by Francis Coppola. It was charming, beautiful and the perfect boutique hotel in the heart of Palermo Soho. I would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting and looking for a “staying in someone’s home” kind of feel.
Tell us about the next trip you have planned. Where are you going, staying and what activities are you planning? Noelle: It’s taken me quite some time to lure Sabrina back to the homeland and I couldn’t be more excited! We’ll be staying at my mother’s apartment in central Lima, Peru. Besides eating a lot of good food, teaching Sabrina some salsa moves and enjoying the hot beach weather, we will be going to Machu Pichu!
Sabrina: The next trip I have planned is to go visit Noelle in Lima, Peru. I have been wanting to go for years now, and the more I hear about it from her, the more eager I am to go. I know she already has a lot of surprises planned. We will definitely be making the trek up to Machu Pichu and visiting the artisans in Cuzco.
What’s your go-to restaurant to eat at when you’re home? Noelle: I personally love Sweet Green and crave it when I’m not home! Every time I get back, it’s definitely my go-to quick dinner or even breakfast meal. Last time I got back from Israel, I was their first customer in at 10 am asking for a salad! But if I’m feeling a bit posh, Indochine is my absolute favorite.
Sabrina: My go to restaurant depends on the occasion and cuisine! Some of my favorites include Marlow & Sons, Tacombi, JG Melon’s, Seamore’s, Kiki’s, Sant Ambroeus, Lovely Day, and Indochine. What can I say, I like to go out to eat!
In your downtime, what are you most likely doing? Noelle: Taking a zumba class or snooping around the sale section at Bergdorfs!
Sabrina: I enjoy walking, so I like to walk and see where it leads me. Otherwise, I am usually going to meet a friend for a chocolate pastry somewhere, or catching up on my latest Netflix obsession. I also enjoy discovering new music, so I tend to spend some hours searching through Spotify.
You’ve lived all over the world. Can you tell us about some of the differences and which city do you prefer the most? Noelle: Between Lima, New York and Paris—they’ve all shaped me in very different ways. Lima homes my whole family and it’s cheerful even on its grayest days, but New York is a melting pot filled with diversity, funk and a whole lot of adrenaline. After college, I had long planned to move to Paris for a year, and I believe it is the city that made me fully taste and recognize my love for fashion. Paris is simply, ever chic and charming. I simply can’t pick a favorite, but if I were to call home? New York has my heart.
Sabrina: I have a love for all three places, but I definitely know and feel most at home in NYC. I somehow always get drawn back to NY and love being able to find a bit of every culture here. Germany, especially Munich, is a city of tradition, and something I feel reminds me most of my family. Whenever I go visit, the focus is seeing my family and enjoying the traditional wear, food, and the beautiful clean city center that feels like a village surrounded by parks. I only got a chance to live in London for 6 months, but it is a city I very quickly grew to love and can definitely see myself living there in the future.
Do you think you’ll move to another country again in your lifetime? Any ideas on where? Noelle: Madrid, for sure! I see cultural, living experiences—even brief—like colorful fabrics that we wear to tell a different story, making us a bit more unique. I’m certainly craving a new patch!
Sabrina: I am a dreamer, so I would love to live almost everywhere on the planet for a little bit. Realistically, however, as I mentioned above, I could imagine myself in London.
Describe your personal style: Noelle: In one word: eclectic. I don’t shop brands; I shop what catches my eye. Every time I walk into a store, specific pieces will pop and poke at me, as if they’re staring and whispering, buy me, buy me! My style changes every day: one day I’m a gypsy, the next I’m a circus ringleader, but what I do find consistent is my love for Western style! I love anything turquoise, fringe, and suede.
Sabrina: I love a great pair of vintage jeans, sneakers and a comfy t-shirt or button down. Although, in winter, I have been very drawn to velvet, and have been wearing a pair of burgundy velvet boots and black velvet pants. In the summer, I like to wear a casual dress with espadrilles, or one of Noelle’s linen skirts with a t-shirt. My favorite items to shop for are shoes and jackets. I usually do not look for specific brands, but shop whenever I see a unique piece that I like. I currently love wearing my Yali, Alix of Bohemia and traditional Bavarian Tracht jackets. A recent brand I discovered and love is Ulla Johnson, it is very bohemian and classy.
What about for your home or apartment. Which room are you most excited to furnish? Noelle: Eclectic again! I have a theory that if colors can match, it doesn’t matter what patterns or fabrics you want to play with. I was just telling Sabrina how I dream of decorating a smoke room (more like a library than anything) with zebra red walls and an open indoor garden with blush palm tree walls, Beverly Hills Hotel style!
Sabrina: I love the living room/library or lounge room. I am about to move, so I am very excited to furnish the place. I love pillows, I collect a variety, and want to create a library shelf and pillow den. I am also excited to put together an Art wall. I have a recent discovery for playing around with different wallpaper as well to create the vibe I am feeling—it is so accessible these days to find what you like!
Any advice for other young ladies who are looking to start their own businesses? Both: Stay focused, confident and most importantly, passionate!