Entrepreneur Azhar Safinova loves to take unknown paths and always experiment. In September 2017 she inaugurated her first brick-and-mortar store in Milan, at Via Lanzone 7, an offline development of her own aere-store.com multibrand platform launched in 2016. After having worked as a business analyst for Louis Vuitton in Paris and then for a financial consulting company in London, she decided to start her own company through which she could scout and sell only new designer and “non-mainstream” fashion brands that, just like her store and website’s name convey, want to bring fresh air.
Safinova’s selection only includes high-quality products, innovative design and limited distribution. “I only work with designers I love. I only choose authentic designers who are conscious about their work, stay away from contemporary trends and able to meet most demanding and smart consumers’ tastes,” she explained adding that most of her customers are ages 18 to 34 and 90% of them are women.
What are the current bestsellers of your store and why?
Shoes continue to be a very popular category across different markets, every season, with extremely low return rate thanks to their easy sizing decision. One bestselling brands is Liudmila, that continues to make eccentrically clever collections every season.
Also successful was the denim brand Y/Project thanks to its own unisex selection that featured lots of unusual details such as detachable patches and cufflinks. We were very happy for Y/Project’s overall that proved to be the bestseller of s/s 2017 and we are more than excited for its f/w 2017 arrivals! Accessories do really good for us online, too, from jewelry to, surprisingly, sunglasses, such as those created by Peter&May in collaboration with Wanda Nylon. I believe it is due to selection, as we like to sell items that are unconventional yet tell a story when put together.
Did you notice big differences in terms of bestsellers among your online and offline stores? Can you please specify and eventually explain why?
We’ve only recently opened our physical store so we have yet to discover our offline customers’ behavior. However, I am certain that it is to be very different. So far I noticed a different reaction to brands that pride themselves on raw material, such as, for example, an eco-cashmere brand called Bonnie’s. Beyond their sleek design and hypoallergenic qualities, the softness and luxury of their tracksuit can only be sensed by skin. This is one of the reasons I decided to go offline–there are too many items that need to be touched, tried and understood while photos and words cannot always transmit the preciousness and positive feeling of a finely manufactured clothing.
Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
Definitely style as most brands are not so popular. However, at the same time, we noticed that our European customers shop by impulse or feeling; Americans according to style and fit; and Asian and Middle Eastern online customers more because of the brand (that they are already familiar with).
Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends?
Mostly from Paris’ showrooms. I go to Paris every season, for pre-collection and main. It’s a true and only fashion hub for me. Many designers find us themselves too: through passed down network, research or social media. However, due to our selection process that’s based on quality, original design and limited distribution, we try to keep the brand mix quite small.
How important is the communication with regular customers? How do you communicate with them?
First of all, kind, attentive and flexible customer service is always extremely crucial for us, both with new and repeated customers. Our regular customers get informed about new arrivals and promotions via newsletter, as do all subscribers. We don’t like to bother our regulars too much, they know where to find us and write to us directly if they need special info. Plus, due to our small team, they have an ongoing e-mail conversation with a certain team member and it’s often like talking to a friend.
What do the collections you offer for next s/s look like? And what are the most important trends, in general?
Sneakers is a big addition for us and next season we are adding sneakers (together with apparel) by a Slovak brand called Nehera that presents minimal yet very wearable collection of sneakers made of linen, leather and denim! In addition, with the influence of streetwear, some of the few brands on my mind are Pressure Paris, Snobs and YaYa. I am curious to see how these brands develop in the next seasons as I am sure that the streetwear/subculture trend is here to stay (a bit more).
Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
I am excited about is Laquintane, a French woman’s brand inspired by menswear, for nonchalant everyday wear. It’s the brand's first season, too.
How does your store differ from other stores?
We are possibly the first indie store in Europe to offer emerging and niche luxury labels together with established yet not conventional designer brands. There is usually an idea for a multibrand store to have a list of certain brands to be considered a luxury store, our idea is “a breathe of fresh air,” meaning freedom from trends, from rules or influencers.
What do you like about your customers?
The fact that they care about what they wear and less about what others wear. I want to believe that our customers create their own look not forced by the mainstream.
How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
For us, it’s music (inside the store) and design–together with hard-to-find pieces. We provide design experience, too, thanks to our collaboration with Andrea Giovannetti from App One Design, that creates playful yet elegant marble furniture inspired by Lego and Ikea.
Via Lanzone 7
+39 02 8414 8170