Sales Specialist at Bottega Veneta
Recently I was able to catch up with Hadil Ben Abdallah, the current Sales Specialist of Bottega Veneta Kuwait, for an interview and ended up having an extremely relatable and fascinating conversation ranging from topics such as consumer perception, brand image, work culture and so much more, which isn’t really surprising given Ms. Ben Abdallah (hereon referred to as HBA) has an extremely diverse background and a truly inspiring story to share about pursuing her passion. So, without further ado, let’s jump into it!
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Me: Hello Ms. Ben Abdallah! I hope you’re doing absolutely splendid!
HBA: Hello Mr. Sajid (that was so flattering!), I’m good, thanks!
Me: I was wondering if you would be willing to give me an opportunity to interview you for Vanity Teen Magazine?
HBA: Interesting! But for which role?
Me: Well Ma’am your journey I can see has been extremely diverse. I think it would be most interesting if we chatted about all of your roles, don’t you think?
HBA: With pleasure!
Me: So Ms. Ben Abdallah, I’d like to start by thanking you for taking out some time from your extremely busy schedule as a Sales Specialist at Bottega Veneta. So how did you actually start in the fashion industry? Did you always have a passion for it?
HBA: I actually started as a sales associate at Topshop Kuwait. I applied to the Alshaya Company from my home country of Tunisia and 2007 and was selected for this role. Then within the same company, I moved to the health and beauty department who offered better salaries. I have always been passionate for fashion, style, garments and the diversity in this field.
Me: That’s very interesting, did you apply to Alshaya when you were in Tunisia or did you have to migrate to Kuwait? Was it easy as a Tunisian to start working at Alshaya?
HBA: I applied from Tunisia, then I moved to Kuwait. It was quite easy for me as I could get integrated quickly with different nationalities and the company has a great induction program.
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Me: Wow, that is very influential for aspiring fashion lovers out there. So Ma’am, is there any post at Alshaya that you might describe as your big break in the industry?
HBA: The visual merchandising experience with Topshop was very rich. I learned the most from the British team who used to come regularly for training and worked with us shoulder-to-shoulder; it created an immense passion in me for VM and fashion in general.
Me: I can see Ma’am that must have been very exciting. So could you please tell us a bit about your journey as a VM of Topshop to a beauty consultant at Estee Lauder?
HBA: One day, the brand manager of the Estee Lauder group in Alshaya came to Topshop as a client and I offered him excellent customer service. He was really impressed, especially since I was a VM and I still prioritized clients among all my regular tasks.
Me: How was the experience at Estee Lauder? The role was an entirely different one, right? Did you enjoy the transition?
HBA: Since I have a real passion for fashion, colors, people… and for Alshaya as a company, I enjoyed it very much. Actually, although the companies are different, there was a big similarity between the jobs, especially with the particularity of the product.
Me: Oh, I didn’t know that Ma’am, that’s very insightful. Estee Lauder is an internationally renowned makeup brand, did you get to meet any celebrities there?
HBA: Well, since Kuwait is not very touristic, we used to meet local actresses only. However, we did meet Maya Diab, a famous Lebanese singer; she was invited for an event.
Me: That’s so cool Ma’am, I’m sure it must have been a very memorable event.
After that, you moved on to Coach, right? So were you in charge of any specific products, like their bags?
HBA: Actually, there are no separate departments at Coach unlike Bottega where I am responsible for womens Ready-to-Wear.
Me: I see, so Ma’am, I’m actually extremely passionate about bags and out of curiosity, would like to ask you, what makes a Coach bag special?
HBA: Coach has a great legacy in leather craftsmanship. The designers really focus on the quality of the leather, as well as the utility and the strength of the bags. At the same time, there is also the issue that the design team of Coach are copying some shapes from high-end brands, like Miu Miu. Some bags also have the same canvas material used in Louis Vuitton, just with Coach’s signature CC print.
Me: That’s actually a very important issue that you have brought up Ma’am and I am extremely glad that you did. Since you have witnessed this particular issue, and since you were also directly involved with sales, have you seen any difference among the customers who buy the copied designs and who buy Coach’s original designs? Or do you think copying designs is affecting Coach’s image in any way?
HBA: Although it’s less creative, it’s commercially pretty smart! Since the age-range of Coach clients in Kuwait is mainly teenagers and millenials, who have limited budgets and high-end brands like Miu Miu may not be an option for them, they tend to buy a similar product from Coach that has good quality and reasonable price!
“..it’s commercially pretty smart! Since the age-range of Coach clients in Kuwait is mainly teenagers and millenials, who have limited budgets and high-end brands like Miu Miu may not be an option for them, they tend to buy a similar product from Coach that has good quality and reasonable price!”
Me: Excellent observation Ma’am. And recently, Coach has been reintroducing some of their older designs so that they can actually target both customers who love their original designs as well as those who are on a budget. It truly is very smart!
So after Coach, you became a sales specialist at Christian Louboutin?
HBA: Actually, before that I was a store manager in a Turkish fashion brand called Machka. It is the label of womenswear designer Dice Kayek.
Me: It’s very nice to hear Ma’am that you have worked in both international as well as more local brands. Would you like to mention if you noticed any differences in their cultures?
HBA: Machka listens carefully to clients and emphasizes on management feedbacks about the product and the market. The communication there was easier that in the international brands.
Me: That’s a great point. How was the customer’s perception to Machka in comparison to international brands?
HBA: Machka is a successful brand in Kuwait – the designer is international, the items are designed for conservative women wearing hijabs. Clients in Kuwait do not have many brands that adress them in this particular aspect.
Me: That’s interesting, and so, do you think if international brands also try to address this particular segment of customers, they are likely to be successful?
HBA: Here comes the role of the buyers. The GCC market is a very prosperous one and the brand who doesn’t put this region in consideration is losing a lot!
Me: That’s very true Ma’am.
“Here comes the role of the buyers. The GCC market is a very prosperous one and the brand who doesn’t put this region in consideration is losing a lot!”
HBA: All big brands now have exclusive collection for Middle East or Gulf country, usually more expensive that suits their tastes and needs.
Me: Wow, I didn’t really know that Ma’am and thank you for pointing it out. So Ma’am, after that, you moved on to Christian Louboutin, right?
HBA: Yes. I worked at CL for one year. It is a brand full of storytelling and inspiration.
Me: That’s amazing to hear Ma’am, you sound like you really enjoyed it?
HBA: Yes I didn’t feel I was working at anytime. I’ve enjoyed this experience immensely.
Me: Is there anything special that made this experience more enjoyable than your other positions? Is it just the culture or is there more?
HBA: The Freedom!
Christian Louboutin thinks that the sales team should feel home! We didn’t have to wear uniforms, each person should express his style in a nice way. The stores are all designed by Louboutin himself to make them look like living rooms! The products are very creative; although sales mainly centered on classic styles, you never felt bored. The manager was a real leader not just a boss. I left CL only because I was offered a more lucrative salary by Bottega.
Me: Indeed, that truly sounds like a dream come true Ma’am, you can hardly contain your happiness! I am really glad you were able to work there for a year.
Besides the amazing experience you’ve had there, were you associated with any particular department like RTW? Or their legendary shoes?
“Christian Louboutin thinks that the sales team should feel home! We didn’t have to wear uniforms, each person should express his style in a nice way. The stores are all designed by Louboutin himself to make them look like living rooms! The products are very creative; although sales mainly centered on classic styles, you never felt bored. The manager was a real leader not just a boss.”
HBA: At CL also, the teams focus on all departments. We used to handle the beauty department, bags, small leather goods, etc.
Me: But their shoes are the most popular, right?
Me: I actually really like their Paloma bag. It’s very distinctive and very different from most designer bags in general. I think CL’s bags deserve more recognition.
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HBA: Yes the Paloma is an iconic bag. But the problem with their bags is the utility: they are rather heavy, and Louboutin doesn’t want to put clear logos on them.
Me: Some consumers actually prefer it if there isn’t a distinct logo. But the heaviness is an issue. Well Ma’am, every brand has its ethos. Do you remember any particular moment, very funny or very memorable, while working at CL?
HBA: Yes, actually. During the annual event Christian Louboutin himself was in the floor with us and one of the clients thought he was only a manager, and she started to complain about the design of So Kate as it was very painful. She said, “if only I see the designer…” She didn’t know that he is the one since he looks like the Arabs too!
Me: Ohh, that must have been a very memorable moment Did Mr. Louboutin say anything afterwards?
HBA: He answered with his famous quotes, “il faut souffrir pour être belle,” – you should suffer to look beautiful. That’s why I told you local brands listen more actively to feedbacks.
Me: I see Ms. Ben Abdallah. That’s a great lesson for brands. I am truly very glad you enjoyed working there.
And you started at Bottega around December 2019, right? That was after Daniel Lee was appointed as the Creative Director there?
HBA: Yes, Daniel Lee started in July 2018. I’m lucky to have joined Bottega during their rise.
Me: Yes, so you started off with a more affordable brand like Topshop and Coach and moved on to more expensive brands like CL and Bottega. What kind of changes have you seen?
HBA: As I mentioned, some brands are more open to consult their managers about the market needs, like Machka and recently, Bottega, while others impose their way and rely on our ability to move the stock.
At Bottega we have WhatsApp groups for staff managers and buyers to exchange ideas. That‘s extremely helpful.
Me: That’s a great strategy Ma’am. More brands should try to follow it.
HBA: Yes it’s really genius, we are all familiar now with merchandising, buying and reports. Plus, the upper management have a very clear image about the small operations conducted in the shops by communicating with the staff.
Me: That’s great! And you have been working with RTW at Bottega, so every time there’s a new show, can you feel a lot of hype?
Every time, Daniel Lee presents something, we at Vanity Teen are very excited!
HBA: Yes, every new show means a lot of work for us: appointments with clients, new product knowledge trainings …. Daniel lee is a real avant-gardiste.
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Me: Yeah, I remember when the Pouch came out, we kept spotting celebrities with it and I wrote about the Chain Pouch too! Do you think any other accessory or clothing has the potential to become as successful as the Pouch?
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HBA: I think the Crisscross Clutch is a potential iconic. It’s wearable from day to night. Daniel lee is trying to keep the house’s classic woven leather and instead, innovate the shape of the bags.
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Me: True, that’s something many new designers seem to disregard and I’m really glad Mr. Lee is doing. So you’re enjoying working at Bottega as well Ms. Ben Abdallah?
HBA: To be honest – not like Louboutin. There isn’t much special about the brand except the success of Daniel Lee. No storytelling, the brand is not sharing interesting success stories or inspiration sources with the employees or the clients, there isn’t a strong sense of purpose for the brand’s identity. Those are the little things that create passion.
Me: That is extremely true Ma’am. Passion is everything, and you are the biggest inspiration!
HBA: Thanks, haha!
Me: So Ma’am, you started off in the fashion industry in 2007, now it’s 2020, do you think consumers have remained the same or have their choices changed too?
HBA: Of course, fashion is leading people’s choices, that’s the main goal behind it.
Me: But there are so many things that are making a comeback, right? Does that mean there isn’t anything new left, are we out of new ideas?
HBA: I think fashion is moving in a circle, not a straight line. Winter collection, for example, is always marked by animal prints, checkered leather, feathers, etc., while the spring-summer ranges include pastel, colorblocks and denims. The cuts are returning also, but only after years, not seasons.
Me: That’s great for newer brands too.
HBA: That’s right.
I think fashion is moving in a circle, not a straight line. Winter collection, for example, is always marked by animal prints, checkered leather, feathers, etc., while the spring-summer ranges include pastel, colorblocks and denims.
Me: As much as I would like to chat further, I’m afraid we must conclude now. Thank you so much Ms. Ben Abdallah, it was indeed an absolute pleasure talking to you. Would you like to say anything in the end? Nowadays, because of the pandemic, many people who are actually passionate about fashion seem to be losing interest. Would you like to encourage them in any way?
HBA: Fashion is what gives our daily life its colors and beauty. The fashion shows and the fashion business in general didn’t stop during the pandemic, it‘s something vital too and we can not deny how it affects our lives!
Me: That’s extremely true Ma’am. In fact, I was reading an article the other day that luxury shopping actually increased during the pandemic. I’m really glad you’re so hopeful about it too!
HBA: Yes, let’s pray this new year will bring more prosperity to all of us in all fields.
Me: True, thank you so much Miss Ben Abdallah. It was truly exhilarating talking to you. And thank you so much for taking out time from your schedule to talk to us! We hope you have even better experiences moving forward.
HBA: Thank you so much for inviting me for this. I wish all the best for VTEEN too!