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Interviews
BarcarolaThe quintessential elegance of Barcarola

“We colorize our shining kids’ lives.” This is how Barcarola, owned by the company Alas de Ícaro, presents itself to the world of children’s ceremonial fashion. The fact of the matter is that colors and sheen have distinguished their elaborate silhouettes for three decades now. The nobility of their natural materials and the effectiveness of their technical textiles are expertly combined to create modern-day romantic designs. On the cusp of the presentation of their spring/summer 2017 collection at Pitti Bimbo and FIMI, Javier Rodrigo, Barcarola’s General Manager, gives us a preview of the upcoming projects by this children’s high fashion brand, currently exporting 65% of their production.-How was Barcarola founded and what’s the story behind the name?- A barcarola is a folk song played by Venetian gondoliers during the romantic period. They’re the romantic echoes that are the driving force of our products. The brand was established in 1987, over 30 years ago. The initial idea was to open a kids’ fashion store where we could market our own designs, and it ended up becoming a major textile company.-Barcarola defines itself as children’s couture. How did you come up with this luxury positioning?-We adopted that positioning 15 years ago in order to differentiate ourselves from Asian products and low-cost chains, so as to specialize our offering and find our market niche. We managed to get there because of the quality of our raw materials and the careful preparation and design of each one of our garments. Technology allows us to achieve economies of scale, but the craftsmanship guarantees the added and distinguishing value of our work. We look after every last detail of our products features, from the smallest button to the final packaging, and this process applies to finishes, accessories, even hangers….-What materials do you use? -Natural materials like cotton, linen, silk, and wool. We also use technical textiles like neoprene in order to keep up with trends. Our design team attends the biggest textile fairs, and we’re never persuaded by price when including certain materials in our collections. Quality always comes first. For instance, our lining is always crafted in cotton in order to avoid allergies.-How is your catalogue structured?-Barcarola presents four collections a year: Communion, Baby, Summer, and Winter. The first two are clearly differentiated with regard to product and age. The most diverse are the Summer and Winter collections, since we create a broad variety of families and encompass a full range of sizes, from 1 to 18 years. We try to cover any and all needs that kids might have whenever they have to show up to a formal ceremony dressed to the nines.-Where do you market your Communion line?-There are a lot of markets where this is an important sector. Italy, Portugal and Latin America are clear examples.-In 2015 you presented an accessories line.-It’s a booming collection. The public is looking for a complete on-brand look. We launched belts, bags, and shoes so our customers could dress their kids from head to toe.-Where does production take place?-Our products are 100% made in Spain. This is a requirement by our international customers, in addition to being a company commitment we’re extremely proud of.-What’s the make-up of your staff?-We have 24 employees on staff, led by the second generation of the family. We have Design, Pattern, Production, and Distribution departments, in addition to Finance and Sales divisions. Each of these has a quality assurance manager.-Your online store seems to be directed at professionals mainly.-Our online store is aimed at professionals and the final customer, although we do try to steer our final customers to our points of sale so they can receive personalized attention. We think our pieces need to be seen, touched, and tried on.-In 2015 you opened single-brand stores in Doha and Riyadh. Why the Middle East? -Barcarola has been very closely linked to the Middle East since the start. It’s a market we know very well, and our customers, in turn, know us very well.We still work with local business associates to open new Barcarola stores in the short term. In 2016 we celebrated the grand opening of a retail corner in Oman and in 2017 we’ll be opening our first corner in Abu Dhabi.Moreover, our Saudi Arabian partner, with whom we’ve opened a store in Riyadh, is currently scouting locations for a second store, which we could be opening by year’s end or at the start of 2017.We entered Kazakhstan through multi-brand retail channels with our fall/winter 2016 collection and we’re currently in negotiations to enter Iran by 2018.We also just opened our first Barcarola store in Spain, in Valencia.-How would you describe Barcarola stores? -We adapt our stores to the market in question, much like we do with the products we sell. Patterns for the Middle East, for instance, need to meet a completely different set of requirements than the ones we use for Europe, and that’s how we do it. As for the store layouts and designs, we try to adapt to the market’s tastes without betraying the brand’s distinguishing features. However, in the Middle East, touches of gold and opulent detailing prevail, while our Spanish store is more minimalist.-Do you have plans for other markets?-In the short term, our target market is the United States, where we have what we refer to as occasional sales, but where we’d like to establish a solid retail presence. We already have an agent in Texas for different multi-brand sellers and a distributor in New York. Florida is another state where we know that products made in Spain are widely popular.We’re also making our first contacts in Latin American countries like Chile, Peru, Panama and Colombia.In Europe, we have a presence in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, where we’re currently on the hunt for distributors to build a presence.-What’s Barcarola’s export rate at this stage?-Sixty-five percent of our revenue from 2015 was from exports, and our current forecasts for 2016 are even higher.-Do you have anything to share with us that might hint at what we’ll see at Pitti Bimbo and FIMI in coming days?-The spring/summer 2017 collection combines street styles, with a hint of the current vintage trend, and a contemporary feel. It includes colorful palettes that range from the purest white to the brightest lime green, in addition to elegant shades of pink, bright reds, corals, and blues…. The final result is a young, elegant collection that doesn’t shy away from sophistication.Barcarola:Headquarters: C/Manuel Sanchís Guarner, S/N. 46960 Aldaia, SpainExport rate: 65%Main markets: Middle East and EuropeFairs: Pitti Bimbo, FIMI and Magic Day by FIMIWeb: www.barcarolamodainfantil.com

Pretty Ballerinas"The cosmopolitan essence" of Pretty Ballerinas

“Adapt or perish,” Julio de Olives, the CEO of Grupo Mascaró tells us when we ask him about the Pretty Ballerinas concept store that opened in Barcelona.  This is a modest response bearing in mind that they have the largest collection of ballet shoes in the world.  Innovation is in their DNA.  Having launched over a decade ago through an e-commerce platform, Pretty Ballerinas has reinvented itself with limitless imagination into an iconic shoe business model. It secured the omnichannel experience that is key to today’s retail approach before anyone else. Claudia Schiffer was the brand’s first spokesperson and Amal Clooney was the most recent addition to this elite group. Which includes the likes of Kate Moss, Olivia Palermo and Suri Cruise. Pretty Ballerinas is the perfect example of what happens when a hundred years of tradition join forces with new technologies … -Pretty Ballerinas is the best example of creativity and innovation that has translated into results.  It was founded as an e-commerce platform in 2005, and then in 2007, when you decided to make the jump into retail, you did so internationally, in London, to be exact. You broke all the rules in the playbook…-At the start of the year 2000 we were probably one of the best manufacturers of ballerina flats in the world with a background that includes over 90 years of experience. And although we had a reputable sales rate within the Mascaró collection, we thought that the public was demanding something more.  That’s why we made to the move to create Pretty Ballerinas: a very international brand concept with more than 300 different models made of the most outlandish materials and colors.  That was also the reason for experimenting and launching it on the internet – a total challenge in 2005 – in order to easily reach buyers in major European capitals: London, Milan, Paris, Madrid… That’s why we opened our first store in London, in order to reinforce that cosmopolitan essence. -Ballerina flats had been associated with more romantic and hyper-feminine looks until then, but PB began to give this classic shoe much more character by adding vibrant colors, assorted appliqués and finishes. Does the company have a ballerina for every style?-We take old shoe lasts from the 50s and 60s, then renovate and develop them.  We currently have 12 different styles of shoe lasts.  We definitely have a ballerina shoe for every style.  In fact we have the largest collection of ballerina shoes in the world, with more than 600 different samples per season.  That’s one of the advantages of having our own factory; we can manufacture a limited number of pairs for each model.   -You offer traction soles, straw soles, sandals, even an occasional half-heel…. Are there any limits to reinventing the ballet flat silhouette?-There are no limits.  Design, imagination and inspiration are what matter most.  The important thing is to be true to the “Pretty Ballerina” spirit. -This year you’re even breaking into the sneakers market…-The world has given in to the sneaker fad.  We’ve been working on a design for some time now, using a shoe last that’s very unique and in keeping with the Pretty Ballerinas style.  And we’ve finally launched #PrettySneakers, which is exceeding all of our highest expectations. -In 2013, the PB universe grew with the Pretty Loafers spin-off. How is that brand currently doing?-The goal of Pretty Loafers is to take advantage of the market segment for loafers and offer a flat shoe brand with a more rebellious and androgynous spirit that brings together the rest of the trends found in non-heel footwear.  And it has been undeniably successful. -You’ve also made inroads into the textile sector with a line of Perfecto jackets that capitalizes on your leatherwork expertise….  Are you considering diversifying definitively with new product lines? -We always experiment with new lines as a Marketing Strategy and to draw the attention of the market and the customer.  But our core business is women’s shoes.  We’re shoemakers, and we always will be. - PB’s origins date back to 1918. Nearly 100 years later, what lives on from your artisanal legacy?- Manufacturing and our entire production unit remain in Ferrerías, in the same location where the first Mascaró generation began making ballerina shoes in 1918. And some of our employees are the sons, daughters and grandchildren of the craftsmen and women that began working with Pedro and Jaime Mascaró.  So, although we’ve obviously begun to add new technologies to our process, the essence and many of the same procedures remain the same.  You need to bear in mind that 60 different sets of hands manipulate every ballerina shoe before it’s completed. -What materials do you use?-We select the best materials.  We have more than 1,500 different materials in our warehouses and databases.   And we manufacture approximately 550,000 pairs per season. -Do you have any top-selling models?-The Rosario – Ref 35.663 – is the one we’ve sold the most of ever.  It’s a ballerina flat with a rounded toe and thick cord that will still be around a hundred years from now. -How many stores does Pretty Ballerinas have currently and how many new ones are you preparing to open?-We currently have 70 stores.  The next two grand openings will take place in Guatemala, the third in Chile and one in Melbourne.   -How many domains do you currently operate with regard to online sales?-We have seven different domains because it’s important to provide each market with a site that is in its own language and has its own characteristics. - What are PB’s strongest markets and where else does it still have the potential for growth?-Right now they’re Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and, in general, all countries in the EU.  Our goal is to conquer the United States and Asia. -Could you describe the identity of your other two brands, Mascaró and Úrsula Mascaró?-Mascaró meets the needs of a woman who, on a day-to-day basis, requires a hint of formalness and comfort for work and in life in general. Úrsula Mascaró is a more high-fashion-oriented line, specializing in events and red carpet looks. Pretty Ballerinas:Headquarters: Polígono Industrial – Parcela 9, C/D. Ferreries (Menorca).Production: 550,000 pairs per season.Export rate: 70%.Main markets: England, France and Italy.Fairs: MICAM and White (Milan), GDS Düsseldorf, Pure London, Premium Berlin and Momad Shoes (Madrid).Network of stores: 70.Website: www.prettyballerinas.es

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