By  on July 14, 2008

Adora has a dual personality. The 25,000-square-foot store opening in Manila in the fall has all the trappings of a luxury retailer — limestone floors, velvet draperies and modernist furniture designed by Bill Sofield — but the product assortment is a mix of high and low. Eman Pineda, Adora's founder, witnessed Filipinos' enthusiasm for cross-shopping at his three stores for Tyler, the fast-fashion label he started in 2001. "They aren't interested in wearing one designer from head to toe," he said. "We see a modern consumer who spends on high-end fashion and fast fashion. The typical customer tries on a pair of Marni pants, shops for a Tyler blouse and Chloé handbag. The mix is what we're after." Adora's fashion roster features Jil Sander, Etro, Narciso Rodriguez, Marni and Missoni, as well as Tyler, which is priced from $50 to $120. The shoe and handbag department follows the same high-low philosophy with brands such as Manolo Blahnik, Marni, Missoni, Dolce & Gabbana, Pedro Garcia and the more affordable Bella Luna from China. Adora's target customers, 25- to 50-year-old career-oriented men and women, "have access to many brands," Pineda said. "They travel to Hong Kong and Singapore. With that in mind, we narrowed the brand lineup." Adora, which had a soft opening this month, strives to differentiate its presentation and assortments. In the denim department, jeans are arranged by fit and style rather than brand. James, Superfine and Paige are among the staples. The travel department features a little-known luggage brand from Germany called Rimowa that Pineda claims makes the lightest and most indestructable suitcases in the world. Adora's flower shop sells lush arrangements decorated with unusual materials such as tree bark. The watch and diamond department features an Italian watchmaker discovered by Pineda, Meccaniche Veloci, whose watches have four distinct faces for tracking time in four time zones, each with its own Swiss mechanical movement. The Quattro Valvole model is $5,500. H. Stern opened its first Asian outpost in Adora, offering signature pieces and Diane von Furstenberg's H. Stern collection. Adora's artisan department is another point of difference. Minaudières and clutches made of snakeskin and mother-of-pearl are examples of the locally made products. "It sets us apart from other department stores in the world," Pineda said. "I'm surprised Lane Bryant [in Hong Kong] doesn't have a department for local wares. The products don't need to look ethnic and Filipino, but they have to look beautiful and stylish." Pineda's idea of a seamless shopping experience is presenting customers with a single bill for all their purchases throughout the store while they're having a bite in the cafe or relaxing at the bar. The packages are then carried by employees to customers' cars. Inspiration for Adora came not from other stores, but from "service companies such as the Four Seasons George V in Paris for its consistency of service, Aman Resorts and Singapore Airlines," Pineda said. Winkreative, an advertising and marketing agency with offices in Zurich and London, was involved in coming up with the store's name, brand identity and packaging. "Eman wanted something that implies a bespoke expertise, evokes a fashion feel and has international appeal," said Nicoletta Saunier, who headed the project for Winkreative. For Adora's packaging, Saunier chose a combination of pistachio and black, which she called "elegant and modern." Winkreative even developed an in-house mantra for the Adora team: "Everyday wonders." "It's an inspiration to remind everyone to never get tired of looking for new products and brands," she said. A robust economy lifted property values in the Philippines and boosted consumer confidence. Luxury residential prices rose 15 percent in 2007, on top of an 11 percent increase in 2005 and 10 percent in 2006, according to Colliers International. "There's a significant amount of people with strong purchasing power in the Philippines," Pineda said. Pineda has a strong retail pedigree. His great grandparents, Gliceria and Bienvenido Tantoco Sr., founded Rustan's department store in 1952. Today, the empire includes supermarkets, boutiques and department stores with in-store shops for Cartier, Mikimoto, Tiffany, Nina Ricci, Sonia Rykiel and Estée Lauder. "I was fortunate to be born into a retail family," he said. "I grew up in an environment of retail. It just so happens that I love it. I could never join the family business or a big group because the ideas in my mind are quite different from what everyone is doing. For a small project [like Adora] to go through a whole bureaucracy wouldn't have been good." Adora is owned by Republic Retailers, which also owns Tyler. There are two minority stakeholders, one from Madrid, and the other from China. Pineda is considering expanding his retail horizons beyond the Philippines. "I believe Tyler will eventually land in another city," he said. "It will be accepted internationally. Its styling is quite unique and international. In the near future, it will definitely go somewhere in the region." As for Adora, he said, "Early on, I was asked if I envision this as a single-door retailer or one that is pan-regional. I am not closed to the fact that it could be pan-regional. Not in Hong Kong or Japan, but somewhere else in the region."

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