As The Pursuitist continues to interview the leaders of luxury, next up in the series is our interview with the brilliant Cecilia Pagkalinawan, CEO of StyleTrek. Having worked with luxury brands Nine West, Burberry, Frette, and La Perl, Cecilia is now curating and selecting the finest in emerging fashion with StyleTrek.
Q. Tell us about StyleTrek.
A. StyleTrek is a social commerce site featuring the best emerging fashion designers worldwide. The company was founded in February 2010 in New York. Currently, our crowd-sourcing site is live and we launche our online shop in September 2010.
Q. How is StyleTrek unique compared to competitors?
A. StyleTrek is unique in that we will be a customer-centric company where we involve consumer feedback in every stage of the design and production process — from which designers we feature, to which items we sell, to what fabrics designers should use, to which designs should go to production.
Q. Where are you based, how large is the company?
A. We are headquartered in NY with satellite offices in Europe and the Middle East. We currently have 10 employees and consultants but expect to grow to 20 by the end of 2010.
Q. Please tell us about yourself:
A. I started out in advertising and have worked with brands such as Audi, Volvo, IBM, AOL, and MCI. I was CEO of BoutiqueY3k, an e-commerce consultancy I started in 1998 where we launched Nine West’s first online store in October 1998. I’ve worked as an executive at internet start-ups including K2 Design and RichFX. In 2004 I joined Burberry and spearheaded the launch of their US e-commerce site. It was my first foray to the brand side and learned a tremendous amount from Rose Marie Bravo who was CEO and Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry North America. In 2006 I joined Frette and launched their online boutique in October 2006. I had the pleasure of working for CEO Paul Raffin, a very dynamic and knowledgeable fashion and luxury executive. I also got to work closely with Creative Director Scott Formby who is super-talented and always strived for superior design and quality. In 2008, Frette owners JH Partners acquired La Perla and asked me to also supervise the redesign and relaunch of Laperla.com in US and in Europe. I left Frette & La Perla in January 2010 and started StyleTrek the following month.
Q. Tell us about your day to day duties — and challenges in the industry.
A. Right now, day to day duties involve meeting with investors, our web design and development team, reviewing designers we will feature on StyleTrek, working with our marketing team on tweets and updates on Facebook. We’ve just moved in to our SoHo offices so I’ve also been overseeing the design and furnishing of our office space. Yesterday, I met with Bjorn Iooss, a photographer I’ve worked with at La Perla who shot the StyleTrek designer portraits. He’s providing us with fashion and fine art photography for our walls.
For some reason, I had expected more challenges. I expected raising capital, hiring a top notch team, and recruiting top emerging designers to be more difficult. Everything pretty much happened much quicker and easier than I had expected. The business model seems to resonate not just with investors, but also with designers who want to market their brands and fashions to consumers worldwide. We hope that the consumers will also be receptive to StyleTrek and support the designer entrepreneurs we will feature on the site.
Q. So has luxury returned?
A. Luxury has never gone away. Luxury is not a price tag but a sense of finding something unique and special. Who doesn’t want to own something that is beautifully designed and of good quality? We plan on making luxury more accessible by enabling the process from design to production to market become more efficient. We plan on leveraging the buying power of our community of designers to get better prices for raw materials to improved production terms. For consumers, to be able to engage with the designers they love and participate in the creative process would ensure the items they receive are exactly as they would want it to be. Wherever fashion lovers live, they will have access to the latest apparel and accessories worldwide. I love what I do. There is never a boring moment. My favorite quote is Life is not problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced, by Kirkegaard. I’d like to change it to … an “adventure” to be experienced.