Moda Operandi: From the runway to your wardrobe
The world of high-end fashion is quite a tricky and highly competitive one. It takes a good amount of time and effort to keep with the numerous fashion weeks, capsule collections and an eye out for up-and-coming designers.
By the time a designer’s pieces are available to buyers, a new collection or release is already out, and social media and the world of instant-everything makes it even more challenging to keep up.
But one powerful woman has created just the perfect link to bridge the gap between the runway and the wardrobe, catering to demanding fashionistas around the world who want the items they love, now!
This is Lauren Santo Domingo, founder of online fashion retailer Moda Operandi. The website specialises in sourcing clothing items and accessories right off the runway and has become a sophisticated destination for fashion lovers.
AMEInfo speaks to Deborah Nicodemus, CEO of Moda Operandi and the woman behind the website’s business strategy and overall operations.
How many designers from the Middle East are on board with Moda Operandi?
We have a strong portfolio of Middle Eastern designers featured on the site, including Madiyah Al Sharqi, Elie Saab, and Ashi Couture. We attended Fashion Forward in April and most recently launched collections from Madiso, Hussein Bazaza, Suzanne Kalan, Rami Al Ali and Hamda Alfahi.
Could you please explain how the website works and want gap it bridges?
Moda Operandi is a bridge between designer and client, making the entire collection available to pre-order directly from the runway. Clients are empowered to purchase looks without being limited to the edited selection made by a traditional retailer, omitting the fear of missing out on a piece she loves. Beyond the runway, Moda offers a high-touch service not previously available through ecommerce. These include in-home visits, travel concierge services, closet reorganisation – we cater to her dreams. We often work with clients on gifting and have sourced pieces for anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and, of course, just because.
Describe a Moda Operandi client. Are they bolder than the average affluent buyer, with a little more of an edge to think of acquiring pieces that might be regarded as “more exotic” to others?
Our core business – runway – puts the client first and allows her to make a purchase that is unedited from the runway. We attract a very different clientele by offering collections direct from the runway. Our clients are able to get a holistic understanding of a brand’s identity, the story communicated as each designer intended it to be told. Our client is global and similar only in that they gravitate to the unique, exclusive and one-of-kind.
Are your clients limited to shopping from what’s available on the website? Or can they place an order for a piece that isn’t there, pay a deposit and then you can source it for them? Please explain if that is an option and if there are other methods of transactions available on the website?
Our brand matrix included international luxury designers and emerging talent exceeding 400 brands across apparel, accessories, and fine jewelry. In conjunction with the Trunkshow or pre-order business, we also offer an expertly curated selection of in-season ready to ship products through our Boutique. Both Trunkshow and Boutique are online businesses. Our offline business began 2 years ago with the launch of our Moda London location which is an invitation only showroom. Based on the success of this business we are now opening a new location in NYC this coming September 8th to be followed by a location in the Middle East. It is during the showroom appointments where we work with clients on custom and bespoke pieces from couture to fine jewelry.
Can you give us a percentage breakdown of where you customers are located? Or any sort of breakdown to understand where the majority of your customers come from?
Our client mix is changing rapidly. In 2013, the US represented 85 per cent and only 15 per cent of our sales were international. In just two and half years, our international sales mix grew from 15 per cent to 30 per cent. Our business is exceptionally strong; the first half of 2016 exceeded last year with high-double-digit percentage growth.
You have been operational for five years. What are the five biggest takeaways you can share about luxury e-tailing today and the five biggest consumer behaviours that are currently a reality?
Luxury is an experience versus a transaction. We speak to the individual needs of our clients and strive to create a one-of-a-kind experience. Our clients come to Moda for the unique versus the basics. Therefore, our goal is to provide unique products with engaging editorial that shares the designer’s story. At Moda, we launch five new brands a day and, during fashion week, the number of shows scales to 15 to 20 over a three-month period. As a result, Moda’s site is always fresh with new products, designers and editorials.
The website currently only caters to women. Are you looking to introduce men’s products as well? Do you think there is a market for that? Please elaborate.
Moda Operandi’s success is based on a clear vision of the future and continuous innovation across all departments; we always approach new categories with an open mind. In the case of men’s [products], we have had numerous client requests. Therefore, we began testing last December through our Gift Guide and Showrooms. In 2017, we will begin to test men’s Trunkshows, where our current brands have a men’s business. The tests were quite successful and warrant further client engagement prior to building a new site for men’s.
Please feel free to discuss other topics that you think are of interest but have not been raised above.
We are in our fifth anniversary year and the breadth of our brand offering has expanded significantly to include the world’s leading established as well as emerging talent from four major capitals across Brazil, the Middle East, Australia, Russia, and Germany. Since Moda is steeped in luxury and technology, our growth initiatives centre on the idea of elevating online luxury. We have a series of initiatives to be rolled out in the coming months such as haute couture and exclusive fine jewellery collections all of which are centred on the luxury experience. Additionally, we are expanding our reach into the Middle East with our eye on Asia.