Inés Puig - From Christie’s auctions to shaking up women’s care

To me, Inés is a Virago Muse from head to foot. To be honest, we didn't get off to a very good start, but I guess it was a matter of age. A few years later we met in Paris and, since then, I have not stopped admiring her way of seeing the world and playing in it as the best.

                                                    
Ines has a lot of things to say. We could have spent several days talking that would not have bored at all. She says she is not creative but I don't believe her. You only need to read a little bit of her captivating stories about her relationship with art, which she has lived close to since she was a child. Besides, she gives us a very real opinion about the infinite parallelisms between fashion and art.

Inés, as a VIRAGO woman, is not afraid of change. She has taken a brutal leap to dedicate herself to a very new sector, the Femtech, dedicated to the well-being of women. We recommend you to stay until the end because she tells us very interesting and, at the same time, frightening things about feminine hygiene products.

Virago Barcelona: Hi Ini, you know that's how I call you. How are you? Who would have thought that, considering we couldn’t stand each other before meeting properly (silly, very silly), I would be interviewing you for being someone I admire. It's been years since we realized that we actually liked each other so much, in our Parisian times, so I can't be more excited about you being part of #VIRAGOmuse.

Inés Puig: hahaha I think I was 100% to blame for that, but luckily people grow up and life takes many turns. Thank God because, to be honest, the 20-year-old me was a bit of an idiot.

V: Before we start, it's like a ritual to ask our #VIRAGOmuse what song should we play in the background to read the interview. What do you propose?

IP: Any of my Mega Yilling list.

V: Now, let’s start. It is not necessary to say that it is a pleasure for us to share this time with you and to hear a bit more about yourself, especially about your professional career and your relationship with art. For those who don't know you, you spent several years working as a cataloguer at the international auction house Christie's, one of the most important and recognized worldwide, together with Sotheby's. Tell us, what led you to work in the art world and what was your role in it?

IP: Art has always been my passion and that of many members of my family. I have several relatives that are painters and my parents always took me to museums. When I was a child, I used to go to Paris very often because of my father's work and I remember that sometimes my mother, who must have been fed up with me and my brother, would drop us off at the Louvre early in the morning and say "I'll pick you up at 3pm and ask you questions about aaaall the works". We were about 8 and 9 years old. At university I studied two majors, Business Administration and Art History, and when I finished I wanted to explore that world more because I felt that I still had a lot to learn and that I might not be able to do it later.

At Christie's I was in the contemporary art department and my role was to do research, assess and evaluate the state of the works that we were potentially going to auction. I loved researching where the work had been and who it had belonged to before. It was like playing detectives and we would find the most curious stories. But, without a doubt, my favorite part was evaluating the state of the paintings. To manipulate and touch with my own hands some of the most incredible works of the 20th and 21st century while being alone in the silence of a warehouse was an unforgettable experience for which I will always be grateful to Christie's. For me it was like going to Disneyland every day.

V: And all that after working at Jean Paul Gaultier's headquarters. How did you go from fashion to the art world? Do you regret the change?

IP: I think that fashion and art are more related than people think. In my opinion, little credit is given to fashion creatives. In fact, working there taught me to have infinite respect and admiration for this guild and especially for Jean Paul Gaultier, whom I was lucky enough to live closer to. It also led me to finally accept that, much to my regret, I am less creative than I would like to admit. It seems to me that fashion creatives need a lot of talent to be able to create that infinite number of collections a year; always working within the creative limits of the dimensions of the human body, the materials used in fashion and functionality. An artist has the freedom to be much more multidisciplinary, to work with different materials in different categories at a pace more adapted to his or her creative process. In fact, it is very rare to find an artist whose work is exclusively under one category or material.

Regarding my change, I had always wanted to get involved in the art world but everyone told me not to, that it was a very hard world and that I would most likely end up living under a bridge. Fashion seemed like a good compromise between the creative and the corporate world but I still had the fly behind my ear and wanted to try it. I don't regret it because it was very fruitful and gave me incredible experiences.

"In art you have more creative freedom but it's true that sometimes limits sharpen the wit. I make my most “creative” dishes on Sundays when I have four things left in the fridge".

V: At Virago we agree with you that, nowadays, art and fashion breathe almost at the same time. From your personal and professional vision, what do you think unites them and what divides them? 

IP: Wow.. there are many parallelisms and we could spend hours talking about this topic, but the first difference that comes to mind is functionality. Art, especially nowadays, is created under the motto of "art for art's sake". On the other hand, fashion, like design or architecture, does have a functional aspect. On a creative level, I can't tell you which is more challenging. In art you have more creative freedom, but it is true that sometimes limits sharpen the wit. I make my most “creative” dishes on Sundays when I have four things left in the fridge. That's when fascinating phenomena like pizza with pineapple are born.

However, all of that can change. Until not so long ago, art was limited to imitating reality; portraits, landscapes, etc. It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century when Kandinsky questioned why the limits of art and why art could not be like Wagner's music, which sounded without imitating any sound found in nature, with total creative freedom. Thus, abstract art was born. Later, in the mid-50s, Fontana wanted to get rid of the physical limits of the canvas and decided to cut through it with a cutter to make it three-dimensional in space. Thus began his best known work, Concetto spaziale. I don't know how that could translate into fashion but, as I said, I'm not creative.

On the other hand, fashion is much more democratic and accessible. In art, prices are increasingly astronomical and therefore museums rarely manage to get hold of first-rate art works anymore. This phenomenon is making art accessible to very few, which in my opinion is very sad.  The fact that the world of first-rate art has become a niche, disconnects it from the real world and real problems, which is quite ironic considering that most art works deal with universal themes such as love, identity, loneliness or loss, don't you think?

 

"The fact that the first level art world has become a niche disconnects it from the real world and real problems, which is quite ironic considering that most of the art works deal with universal themes such as love, identity, loneliness or loss".

V: Yes, it works in a very similar way to the world of fashion, which tries to solve everyday problems through the way we dress.

Moving on to the next phase of your life... despite your time in these two worlds and your close relationship with them, you have made the leap to MyAlma, a start-up that has undoubtedly revolutionized the world of feminine intimate hygiene. It's a brutal leap! First, congratulations. Second, now that we are in the same boat (entrepreneurship), tell us a little more about the project, about how you are working a thousand hours a day, the excitement of seeing your work bear fruit.

IP: My boss also thought it was a brutal leap when I told her I was giving up art for tampons haha. Well, the truth is that I was very lucky because I joined the project when the product was already quite worked on and I am in a super team, where I am learning a lot. Launching a project from scratch and, above all, doing it alone, as you have done, is another level! I don't know what I would have done without my team.  

V: What do you think pushed you to start working on a project that was so new and different from what you had been doing before? I imagine that you have learned a lot. I love how great the whole concept is and how involved it is in the well-being of women! 

IP: Well, several things came together for me. At one point, my body was in shock and I was so distant and so uninformed of my anatomy that I didn't understand what was happening to me. I had to look for information on the Internet myself (yes, I am one of those) and misdiagnose myself several times until I began to understand what was happening to me and how to re-regulate my body. That's when I realized how much I didn't know about women's bodies and how exposed we are to harmful products in our daily lives. I also realized that, fortunately, things were changing and that a very interesting new sector was growing, known as Femtech, dedicated to the well-being of women. 

It was just then that, through a friend, I ran into Mer, the founder of MyALMA, and I was passionate about her project and about herself. You could say that the stars aligned themselves with me.

V: We are passionate about seeing how women we know and admire (all our #VIRAGOmuse so far), do their bit to improve the world we live in. Although it's clear that fashion is one of the most harmful industries both environmentally and socially, there's a lot to be done in all sectors. Do you think women today are really aware of the impact that feminine hygiene products have on the environment? 

IP: Of course not, neither the impact on the environment nor the impact on health. How can it be that we look at the cereal ingredients in detail but we have never questioned these products that are literally inside us for some 65,000h during our lives? Who can imagine that a conventional tampon can carry chlorine, rayon, perfume, petrolatum, pesticides and who knows how many other unpronounceable things? We are talking about chemicals related to irritations, infections, hormonal disruptions and cancer. The reality is that it is very complicated to realize all the ingredients that these products carry because conventional brands do not have the obligation to disclose them.  

“How can it be that we look at the cereal ingredients in detail but we have never questioned these products that are literally inside us for about 65,000h throughout our lives?”

V: Totally agree. At least, thanks to projects like yours the fight goes on.

In VIRAGO we believe that women, despite the fact that we are moving forward, are still very tied to social stigmas and presumptions about how they should be or act and, above all, how they should dress so as not to be "misunderstood". VIRAGO defends the opposite: to be sexy does not mean to be fresh, to show the neckline does not mean to go looking for war and to want to see you beautiful does not show insecurity. On the contrary, VIRAGO, by her own definition (which I encourage you to read in this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virago), is a strong, brave and powerful woman who is very wrongly described as "masculine". We couldn't end the interview without asking you what you think you have about VIRAGO.

IP: Well, look, I'm the typical one who ALWAYS gets in the extra lane if there's traffic, so you could say I'm a brave one. You look like you're in the extra lane, too. Also, I have a very serious case of the middle brother syndrome, which makes me a natural born fighter.  

V: And finally, if you had to define yourself in one of our designs it would be...