There is so much time, effort, research, and stories into every product you find in a fashion boutique like Cul De Sac. The multi-brand luxury concept store stays ahead to bring you more than what’s on your trending page.
Who’s exactly behind Cul De Sac? One of them is Andrew Naval, the general manager of Noble House Distribution Inc. Noble House is responsible for bringing Kenzo, Balmain, and Versace to The Philippines along with Aigle and Philipp Plein.
“I guess you could call me the ‘gatekeeper,’ Naval says of his role, which involves business first before the fun stuff. “It may look glamorous from the outside, but there’s a complicated ‘nervous system’ beneath the surface that requires 24/7 management and decision-making at every turn and junction.”
“All the organs rely on me, and I handle the departments of merchandising, marketing, brand acquisition, retail operations, warehouse and logistics, creatives/ visual merchandising, store development, business development, corporate sales, IT and accounting, financing, and HR.”
As we go through this unique fashion month–labels mixing lives shows with digital presentations, a MET Gala moved from May–we thought it was time to take a peek behind the curtain before the show lights turn on.
How did you get your start in the fashion industry? I’ve always loved fashion. As a dancer–I was part of the De La Salle Dance Company–I found the styling of a uniform or the costumes is all part and parcel of the drama and flair of it all.
Career-wise, I jumped into a marketing communications role as part of an internship with Rustan Commercial Corporation, and I haven’t looked back since. This was in 2010.
Take us through a peak day of your working life. I wake up at 7:00 AM and down a glass of water. I then freshen up while having my cup of Malongo coffee. I always have the Malongo Columbie or Ethiopie for my latte.
My day starts with a simple workout, and breakfast is simple too. I’m in the shower by 8:00 am. I dress up for work while listening to global news. You’ll typically find me in luxe sportswear or athleisure from Kenzo, Versace, or Balmain.
Once at the office, I prioritize emergencies or urgent matters or am troubleshooting–this has obviously become more frequent since the pandemic hit. Once these have been tended to, I get to my e-mails. There are days wherein I’m on back-to-back calls (phone and virtual) with our team and headquarters for the different brands we carry.
I’m home between 6:00 to 7:00 pm and jump straight into the shower. I allow myself a quick dinner at home unless it’s a business dinner out with a client or partner. I recheck e-mails because of the difference in time zones for all our headquarters.
I wind down with a series I like a few episodes or a movie, and then I’m out by 12:00 MN to 1:00 am
It’s a given your job involves traveling. What are the top destinations you’re always excited about? When it’s Europe, j’adore Paris, Milan, and London. For Asia, Tokyo all the way. If not work-related, I do have a soft spot for Hong Kong.
What is your WFH, camera-on Zoom meeting look? It differs from day to day or from mood to mood, but I usually wear nice sweaters or coordinated separates. Even if I work from home, I like to spritz on a favorite scent like Byredo’s Mohave Ghost or Le Labo’s Another 13.
Fashion during a global health crisis
With everything that has happened and what’s going on, what’s fashion’s biggest challenge? I feel I can speak for most of the fashion industry here when I say we experienced and suffered through an overall drop in sales – particularly during the first few months of the pandemic. Our physical stores had to pause operations fully. Luxury brands are still alive and well, but we’ve all felt the pinch. I’m not going to lie. It was a tough time, but we’ve pulled through and learned how to navigate and manage this unprecedented time.
What changes did the fashion industry quickly adapted to in light of COVID-19? You know what they say, adversity is the mother of invention. Pre-COVID, I feel like the country was behind in terms of e-commerce. But when brick-and-mortar retail was faced with zero foot traffic, we focused intently on beefing up our online shopping platforms and refocusing our marketing and communication efforts that way. Supplementing that, we also took to other forms of selling via chat apps and e-catalogs.
Internally, we had to restructure all departments and develop their respective workflow systems in WFH set-ups. Very challenging!
What qualities should a fashion brand possess to be able to weather through the pandemic’s difficulties? Resilience and versatility. I also think empathy and a strong sense of social responsibility are more relevant now than it ever was.
What do you think the pandemic taught the fashion industry will still hold as we move on? From my own or the retailer’s POV, adapting to change and coping are essential to sustain the business. Pre-pandemic, there was no real sense of urgency to keep up with the rest of the e-comm world. And look at us today! While the then-necessary lockdowns became the catalyst, now, we are more than keeping up and driving online sales like never before. We always knew we could do it, and now there’s no turning back.
From the consumer’s perspective, there’s been widespread adoption of new ideas and how things are done. The buying behavior of the consumer has done a dramatic 180 worldwide. Everyone has altered the way they purchase items, from high-end luxury all the way down to daily essentials and groceries.
On that note, and without detracting from our heroes and frontliners, I do believe there’s another lesson here. While some may perhaps find the fashion world frivolous in this era of needs versus wants… at the end of the day, even in our darkest days, when everything else stopped, artists and creators have given us a distraction and afforded us a glimmer of joy. Fashion evolves, but it’s here to stay.
Who are the most intriguing fashion figures of the moment in terms of their retail and business acumen? Ben Gorham, founder, and creator of Byredo Parfums. Rami Atallah, co-founder and chief executive of fashion platform Ssense.
In terms of the retail landscape, what are consumers looking for? Bottom line: Excellent customer service. And a unique consumer experience.
In turn, what are the innovations retailers should be focused on? It’s a perpetual learning curve, but I’d bank on digital innovations and how we can incorporate and deploy these in our internal and external day-to-day operations. In the same breath, we shouldn’t lose sight of personalizing and customizing one’s approach to handling clientele.
Who are the biggest fashion influencers of today, given how almost everyone knows how to post an #ootd? Cliché, as it sounds but the Kardashians and Jenners are top of mind here. They possess the influential stats for sure. Without even trying, the sphere of influence of the third-gen royal family members is still strong.
For my own list, I get some inspiration from David Beckham, Jerry Lorenzo, and Eric Rutherford.
TikTok gave us more understanding of microtrends. What does a fashion brand need to do to gain longevity? I’ve seen a shift in content creation. Storytelling is important in every business. I think that TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have provided the platform and opportunity for individuals, groups, and companies/brands to express themselves or let you behind the curtain a little bit. As you said, everyone can post an #ootd, but in this world, the content creation competition is real, and it’s tough to be heard above all the noise. At the end of the day, the best storyteller wins.
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