Joan Rouras, Desigual

Joan Rouras is the Expansion Director at Desigual. Desigual was created in 1984 and ever since it aims to emanate positivism, commitment, tolerance, constant improvement, innovation and fun. Joan Rouras spoke to Europe Real Estate about the company's success story and the changes the retail sector will have to face in the future.

Describe Desigual and what it stands for.

In 1984, a 20-year-old man from Switzerland called Thomas Meyer started selling T-shirts, with graffiti and kaleidoscopic prints, that he had designed himself at the bustling markets on the island of Ibiza. One day, he found himself with a surplus of jeans and decided to create an item which would later become a best seller: a jacket made out of cut-up old jeans.

He decided to start his own company and looked for a name that would reflect the essence of what he was trying to create; in the end he chose DESIGUAL. He presented its first slogan which is also the meaning of Desigual: It’s not the same. In 1985 he launched the first collection, full of prints and colors which gave insight into the unique identity that would later make the brand famous.

From that point on, there were some ups and downs, but since 2000 Desigual has experienced non-stop growth. Desigual launched new product ranges and five-star collaborations, next a multitude of stores began to open in Spain and all over the world. In 2009 the company started the expansion into the US market and into Asia in 2010. Desigual has most recently expanded into the South American market. 

“La vida es Chula", which means "Life is cool” is our battle cry. It’s a friendly but powerful statement. It’s an enthusiastic, stimulating, positive, optimistic, authentic declaration of intent, a manifesto that states how we want to face the world day after day. It’s a sentence that reflects Desigual’s raison d’être and is ingrained in the brand’s DNA and core values. It’s a mindset that is inevitably influenced by the Mediterranean, the sun, light, passion and a lust for life.

Take advantage of every minute, enjoy the present, and know that even during bad times, life is beautiful, it’s a gift and a wonderful experience. Because if you try and give the best of yourself, life will smile back at you. That’s what Desigual people do.

But you don’t always have to be optimistic or in a good mood, you just have to be able to feel happy for a moment and experience pure enjoyment once in a while. Because life is full of little things and precious moments that make it worth living. Things that make us feel, smile, and get excited. Things that we enjoy alone or with others. The little details that mean everything. So, la vida es chula is like... dancing barefoot in the sand... Like loving someone without knowing their name… Like clouds in an August day sky…

It’s a philosophy of life reflected in a fresh, fun and original way of dressing. Be confident, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Stand out, feel unique. Because we are all Desigual when we stop worrying so much about what others think.

What are your current expansion strategies? Where will your growth be directed in the short to medium term?

 Our multi-channel distribution system enables us to work as a global company. Internationalization and innovation are our two main paths of growth. We reach out to people in more than 80 countries.

We have Desigual stores in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, London, New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon, Bahrain, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Athens, Kuwait, Moscow, Cairo...We’re in the most sought-after shop windows in Japan, the UK, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia.

Futhermore, we are at El Corte Inglés, Coin, Galerie Lafayette, Isetan, Takashimaya, Kaufhof, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, The Bay, Palacio del Hierro and Tangs, some of the most prestigious department stores in the world.

Our strategy right now is focused in growth in Europe as our domestic market, taking care about our key markets like Italy, German countries and France. In the case of Asia: we are flying to Japan, and we just opened our first store in Hong Kong. Regarding Mainland China let’s do the thing with common sense.

Americas are there: we continue to expand our brand in US in NYC, Florida and Las Vegas. Regarding South America, we will increase our presence in Central America and at the end of year we will open our first store in Brazil.

How has the shopping behavior changed in the last few years (eg. online shopping) and how has this influenced your brand?

Even in the current macroeconomic situation we see space to grow based on what the customer need and wants. Everything is changing very fast and everyday new channels appear on the market (E-commerce, Travel Retail redefinition, TV sales), and we have to work with the objective to have presence everywhere.

What are your thoughts on pop-up or concept shops?

 We are working with pop-up stores since four years ago, and it’s a great opportunity to test and understand new markets. The recession brought retailers this opportunity, and we have to adapt our mechanisms to do it.

How do you select new markets and locations (shopping centers, high streets) for your brand?

 We invest a lot of time and money to research and understand what we want to be and after that we work on the way we want to be. This is the real question.

In your opinion, what will be the new trends in the retail industry in the coming years?

Great question, not easy answer. In my opinion, there are two aspects in this matter: 

The retail industry is changing and has to change more and more, we cannot use the current standard way of thought. Customers have thousands of opportunities to shop, and everyone in this sector (Developers, consultants and retailers) must adapt their strategy to them. The 'brick and mortar' retail should not fight against other channels, it has to find the way to collaborate with them, finding the way to win.

Brands, brands, brands! What are the costumers looking for? In my opinion, it is clear: shop experience, and every player should work on this way, and Brand should be the starring of this model. If the brands can invest in their own shop experience, forgetting all historic walls on it, we can bring the customer to spend more time in our shops, shopping malls, etc… and more time means more expenditure…

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