Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2016: Deborah Nicodemus, CEO, Moda Operandi
Who says e-commerce can’t survive without all the flash sales and steep discounts? New York City-based Moda Operandi (MO), a luxury fashion portal that allows fashion fans to pre-order their favorite collections straight from the runways, is a best example of an e-retailer going beyond exciting deals. With jewelry, fine art, and other luxury goods made available on its site, MO also has personal stylists for bespoke services to complete the luxury shopping experience.
And the powerhouse management behind the enterprise? Besides being co-founded by Lauren Santo Domingo, a notable fashion personality in NYC’s fashion circuit, the business strategy and operations of MO are handled by the CEO, Deborah Nicodemus. Nicodemus’ extensive executive experience across the luxury industry includes stints in managing brands including Maison Birks, Donna Karan, Gucci, Prada, Hermès, Ferragamo, Cartier, Bulgari, Tiffany, and other famous names.
MO also functions as a platform for emerging design talents around the globe and helps them get more mainstream attention, and this particular endeavor has made the brand reach out to the Middle East as well. After visiting the UAE for Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD) in 2016, MO announced its support for Middle Eastern-based jewelry brand SeeMe. Having launched the regional brand on its global site, MO has effectively showed its support for social entrepreneurship as well, as SeeMe calls itself to be the only Fair Trade certified brand in MENA, crafted by women who have been victims of violence and experience community exclusion.
Discussing MO’s interest in MENA’s creative entrepreneurs, Nicodemus says, “While we have strong client engagement in the region, we are now entering the region in a formal manner making a long-term commitment including a dedicated stylist team, key merchandising initiatives that speaks to known client preferences and heighten services.” The Middle East today exceeds 15% of the portal’s total sales, and the luxury portal enjoys a growing client base in the region.
“Innovative fashion is experimental, using unique textiles and textures, interesting silhouettes, construction, and embellishment. It is the use of technology in printed design to a labor-intensive hand painting fabric. The idea is to continuously innovate through traditional methods to completely new concepts of fashion.”
Drawing on your extensive professional background, what tips do you have for entrepreneurs trying to make it in the already very competitive luxury sector in terms of running the actual enterprise and plans to scale?
“Differentiate- study your business from a macro and micro perspective to determine the sweet spot of differentiation. Then, continue to innovate even in the midst of your success; challenge yourself and your team to deliver beyond expectations. And finally, never accept second best. The European luxury industry, which sets the standard of luxury, is known for their honed craftsmanship and only the best will do.”
What are some tips you have for entrepreneurs in the creative industries who may have faced rejection by bigger players like Moda Operandi?
“Passion! One must love the field they are committing their life to. With passion, rejection is simply a point in time that helps you learn a new, a better way to perform. And when you find others with your same desire to excel, you build a community of success.”
What are some of the Moda Operandi criteria when choosing a new brand? What stage should the business be in before Moda Operandi will consider it for placement?
“Moda’s selection criteria is three fold; ensure the designer’s collection has a unique point of view, impeccable quality and craftsmanship and production capabilities which includes consistency in quality. We work closely with the new designers to ensure their quality and production capabilities meet the highest of standards for the ultimate goal is to delight the end client. So to answer your question, the stage that a brand is at does not determine whether or not they are considered.”