She still remembers her first day at Riopele. The memory is very vivid, but the reality of the company has changed. Rita Fortes was born in Oporto, but it’s in Italy and the United Kingdom that she builds tomorrow’s business.
Do you still remember your first day at Riopele? How was that day?
Of course, I do. It was at the end of August 2007. I was welcomed by Maria João Moreira, who was my director for the first few years and whom I have to thank for her support during that time. She showed me the sales department and the colleagues with whom I would later build an excellent working and friendly relationship. Despite each one having their own markets, we are a cohesive team, and we share a lot of knowledge and experiences. What impressed me most was the organisation and the grandeur of Riopele: first the facilities, then the work system.
In your understanding, how has the company evolved in recent years?
Over the years, Riopele has been able to invest and evolve continuously, both in terms of the product and brand and its image. One of our great characteristics is the ability to respond quickly to customers’ demands and, more importantly, to anticipate their needs. To this end, the R&D and sales departments have played a fundamental role in leveraging these changes.
How important is the English market for Riopele?
In terms of volume, the English market was once one of Riopele’s main markets. Due to the whole socio-economic situation, the United Kingdom has lost some volume, but it maintains its strategic importance. We work, for example, with clients such as All Saints, Victoria Beckam, Paul Smith, Roland Mouret and Ted Baker, among others. Moreover, we have brands selling exclusively online that are beginning to perform very well, such as ME + EM, or emerging brands such as Mother of Pearl or The Fold.
Is Brexit a problem?
Brexit is not a problem at all. Firstly, the European Union and the British government have negotiated a trade agreement that is favourable for companies. In addition, internally, Riopele has created conditions to streamline processes and eliminate some of the existing bureaucratic burdens to facilitate the relationship with our customers. At the moment, we are thus reworking a strategy focused on sustained growth and on different market segments. Obviously, Riopele does not position itself in the price segment but in quality products, a reliable service, and a fair price.
You are also responsible for the Italian market. Italy being a reference player in the fashion sector, what are the competitive arguments that Riopele offers?
I would say the verticality and reliability of the Riopele brand. Verticality practically does not exist in the Italian textile sector and is a strong competitive point. Image, innovation and service are also relevant arguments. In terms of rapid response to customer requests, we are a company of reference.
How important is it for Riopele to be present on the Italian market?
Italy is where everything (or almost everything) happens in fashion, so Riopele’s presence in this market is very important. We provide excellent service to brands such as Armani, Alberta Ferreti, Margiela, Moschino, Pinko or Versace. At the same time, we absorb trends and ideas that allow us to be constantly at the forefront.
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