One of our main aims here at JC Report is to discover and track brands that make quality products as well as those that are poised to become the influential fashion labels. For our multi-part series New Fashion Empire Builders we’ve zeroed in on an esteemed group of designers—including Thakoon, Manish Arora, Marjan Pejoski, Osklen, Ghadah Paris, Bonobos and Nicholas Kirkwood—from across the globe who are taking myriad paths to success. We focus in on their different approaches, particularly in this challenging economy, as they effectively position their brands to establish a fashion empire in the future.
First up in our series is Ghadah Paris, a Lebanon-based womenswear line helmed by London College of Fashion graduate Ghadah al Rashid, a Saudi entrepreneur with an ambitious approach to business. Glamorous draped silk or satin evening and cocktail dresses rendered in jewel tone colors define Ghadah Paris—which is now in its fourth season—with designs appropriate for Jeddah, St. Tropez or Los Angeles. With sales taking place in Paris, a new range of accessories and rumored standalone stores planned for the Middle East, al Rachid takes us through her business plan for Ghadah Paris.
JC Report: Tell us about the ownership structure of your company.
Ghadah al Rashid: Although I come from a family that goes generations back into business, I decided to venture into my own and take the risk of betting on something completely different, using my own money as initial capital.
JCR: Tell us all of the different projects of your fashion kingdom?
GaR: In the very beginning we started with a smaller scale collection to test the market, but after recieving high demand we started developing in terms of style, materials and quality. As I come from the Middle East, it was the easiest market to access, but I envision my brand internationally. I then collaborated with French designer Laurent Mercier as an art director and consultant to help my brand develop internationally in terms of design. Since then we have reached international markets and started growing wisely every season in all aspects.
JCR: What are the core aesthetic values of your brand that will stay the course as it develops?
GaR: My core aesthetic value is designing elegant, chic, feminine and wearable dresses. I have always believed in pure timeless pieces and this is what I try to focus on. I always focus on the woman herself, as I believe a woman should wear the dress, not for the dress to wear her!!
JCR: Is the core of your empire building in the selling of clothes?
GaR: After we started with a small collection of evening dresses, we developed different categories such as tops, pants and skirts. Recently we have widened our collection with accessories—shoes, bags and belts—for the collection to be more complete. For now I can say clothing is my core in building my brand, but it might morph into other accessories with time. As the label gets more established we will develop accordingly.
JCR: How do the new emerging empires differ from existing fashion empires?
GaR: New empires take their brands to a totally different level. I see them as being more creative in developing new designs and very innovative in bringing new ideas, especially in implementing new ways of marketing their brands. It is more difficult nowadays to distinguish yourself in the fashion industry and to be recognized internationally than it was years ago when all the existing fashion empires started. At that time, competition didn’t exist as much as today, and life was much more simple, so it was much easier for a star to shine.
JCR: Do you have a business role model?
GaR: I see my father as my role model as he started from scratch and built his own empire in very difficult times.
JCR: How is the economy impacting your business?
GaR: Although these are hard times for everyone, I decided to be aggressive and take on the economy by going ahead and exhibiting before the international arena—most notably the recent Paris fashion week. The challenge remains high, but the reward is the satisfaction of having a high demand, which we experienced last season. It encourages me to continue to work hard and be stronger for the post-recession active markets.
JCR: How do you plan to stay the course?
GaR: By being loyal to my brand and not jeopardizing the quality for the expense of being economical. We all realize that these are hard times and we are all vulnerable, but the objectives remain intact and we will continue to prepare for the better times ahead.
JCR: Are you methodical in your business development planning? Or is the new empire building method about seizing opportunities as they come?
GaR: Although I am a newcomer and lack the experience and depth of the more established houses, there is always an opportunity. Once the ball is rolling we will grow organically and start implementing the best business practices. I do have the privilege of having a family business that has access to the experience and direction necessary to steer any business in the right direction. In the meantime, I will focus on the creative side until it’s time to become more structured and incorporate.
JCR: How is the face of consumption changing?
GaR: As the industry matures, so do the consumers. Recently we have seen that people are becoming more prudent in their consumptive behavior. The current trend is to acquire quality pieces or to invest in chic, timeless pieces that will become classics. I try to cater to that pattern in consumer behavior.
JCR: How does new media figure into your empire building efforts?
GaR: It is a key component in building the necessary awareness. I will continue to engage the media and present the distinguishing factors of my designs in order to bring out their novelty to the interested fashion community.
This interview was conducted by Jason Campbell.