Q&A Santiago Gonzalez

Known for its supple crocodile totes and elaborate python satchels, Nancy Gonzalez is no stranger to luxury.

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Known for its supple crocodile totes and elaborate python satchels, Nancy Gonzalez is no stranger to luxury. For the brand’s first showroom, on 57th Street in Manhattan, company president Santiago Gonzalez, the designer’s son, sought to fuse the high design with a sense of ease. The result is a space where ergonomically correct crocodile upholstered chairs abound.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWD: Why did you decide to open your first Nancy Gonzalez showroom in New York?

Santiago Gonzalez: We have been showing at the Four Seasons Hotel for nine years, but as selling seasons and markets have become longer and less structured it made more sense financially to have our own space.

WWD: How does the space embody the brand?

S.G.: The inspiration for this project was the real definition of exotics, everything that reroutes us from the ordinary. The new showroom has been designed with a very residential feel, always respecting the aesthetic codes of Nancy Gonzalez, which are purity, composition and balance. As with our bags, there is no hardware and only the most luxurious of materials have been used, such as silk, white oak, horsehair, shagreen and of course, crocodile.

We wanted a space that would inspire style, therefore we have placed pieces from our personal art and furniture collection. We see this as an opportunity to share what moves us with our clients and friends. Artwork by Michele Oka Doner, Johannes Wohnseifer, Aaron Young, Sugimoto and Rauschenberg, among others, sits next to furniture from Andre Arbus and the Campana Brothers.

WWD: What’s new for the spring collection?

S.G.: Fresh colors that inspire optimism, an irreverent use of textures, absolute freedom in shape and form.

WWD: Are you using any new skins?

S.G.: We have developed a new cloth-like quality skin, which is very thin and light. It allows us to make bags that literally drape down.

WWD: Do you still farm your own crocodiles?

S. G.: The only way for us to be certain that the skins are the correct quality and that all the environmental requirements are met is by controlling the whole process and running a vertical operation.

WWD: Have you noticed a change in sales due to the economic climate?

S.G.: Not in the sales dollars, but, yes, on what is selling. There is not a feeling of consumption, but of choice. Loving the product is no longer enough. They have to absolutely love it to buy it.

WWD: How do you view the future of luxury and consumption of luxury goods?

S.G.: Personal experience wins over exclusivity and status. Limited editions are a thing of the past. It is all about personal editions. The key is to convey exclusivity, mystery, emotion, perfection and beauty while remaining approachable.

WWD: You do lots of trunk shows. What have you learned doing so?

S.G: I see trunk shows as an invaluable marketing research tool. Being able to travel to different markets and have direct contact with the customers is priceless and necessary in understanding your consumer. Large, high-ticket bags are definitely what is driving the market.

WWD: Are you expanding further internationally?

S.G.: Most of my growth right now is international. There are many emerging markets starved for luxury goods. We are doing two large events in November, one with Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and one with Harvey Nichols in Dubai.

WWD: Is this showroom one closer step to you opening a Nancy Gonzalez store?

S.G.: Yes. Internationally, our plan is to open five monobrand stores in the next two years. This makes total sense for us, as most international markets do not have large department stores.

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