#CNILux Day 1: The Lusophone Link
Alice Newbold, Vogue Daily Editor, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Lisbon
With an abundance of artisans and effective manufacturing and supply chain, Portugal – the setting of this year’s Condé Nast International Luxury conference – is an exciting environment for the luxury industry. Suzy Menkes invited three Brazilian experts in the fields of retail, jewellery and footwear to discuss the lusophone link – the importance and influence of Portuguese-speaking countries outside the European hub.
As chief executive officer of the Iguatemi Group, Carlos Jereissati Filho oversees the activities of one of the largest shopping mall developers in Brazil, operating a total of 13 prominent establishments around the country. He is well placed to give an insight into the retail habits of the Brazilian luxury consumer, including what the role of malls is in an age of e-commerce.
“Over 50 years, we have evolved a lot,” Filho told the conference. “More and more, people want to feel at home in malls, and experience a full journey. They can start in the fitness centre, have lunch and go to the cinema.” Iguatemi malls offer so much in the surroundings that they don’t feel like malls.
There is, however, a juggling act of keeping malls enticing while respecting that customers will also shop online. “We must understand people’s desires and how to make them happy, rather than think about how we can make money from them. Consumption is a beautiful thing; the bad part is having to pay and carry the shopping! Technology can take out that bad part and enhance the experience.”
He’s optimistic about Artificial Intelligence because it will help the company understand who is shopping in the malls and serve them properly. Iguatemi properties have always been more than shops that just pass things over the counter, and AI can only build on this humanity.
Financial trader Ara Vartanian returned to his native Brazil from New York in 2000 to focus on his passion: jewellery design. He swapped stocks for stones – the rarer and more unusual the better – and channelled his Brazilian heritage into experimental creations that have attracted the attention of Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, with whom he collaborated with on a collection in 2017.
He has no professional design skills, but works from a piece of paper, on which, he explains, he puts his stones on a pedestal. “I want to give my aggregated love of each stone, which is a gift of nature, back to people. To give more than just buy and sell.”
His atelier is part of his home – “clients can see the jewellery being made which makes wearing jewellery a different experience” – and his wife stars in the ad campaigns. Everything is “integrated and easy”. Now his mission is to bring a slice of Brazil to the world through 44 Bruton Place, his first bricks-and-mortar store. Like the rest of his business, it was built on intuition: “I mortgaged my house and my wife almost killed me!” But commitment and charm, it seems, are inherent to the lusophone link.
As heir and chief executive of Arezzo & Co, Alexandre Birman helms one of Brazil’s largest footwear empires, which sells over 10 million pairs of shoes a year – in Brazil and internationally. His own namesake shoe brand, which sits within the Arezzo & Co umbrella, is famous for its exotic skins in vibrant hues and prints and its celebrity following. With Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio and Gigi Hadid all fans, Birman understands the energy Brazilian footwear can bring to the luxury market.
His model is successful because he’s not afraid of change. “You have to be disruptive,” he told the conference. “Ask yourself what will change in the future and be ahead of it.” The company has a “beautiful operation system”, because it’s constantly evolving. Arezzo & Co has a 14,000 sq m product development centre, which controls development in all brands. Last year it built a warehouse big enough for 200,000 pairs of shoes that can be delivered in 48 hours, because the old unit simply wasn’t sufficient.
For any company to thrive, he added, it also has to be about the people. His appointment of a 30-year-old as CEO is indicative of his commitment to the new. With expansion imminent, Birman is a whirlwind to watch out for.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit the website