Daslu's Heavenly Secret To Success
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Daslu's Heavenly Secret To Success
April 12, 2004
Think of her as South America's most successful businesswoman, the reigning doyenne of Latin luxury - Brazil's equivalent of, well, Rose Marie Bravo, rolled into one.
She is Eliana Piva De Albuquerque Tranchesi, head honcho of Sao Paulo super boutique Daslu, major league fashion buyer and plantation-style living merchant. Given her stature, you'd expect Tranchesi to exude at least a little hubris.
But she claims that a key to her uniquely successful business is that when in doubt she prays to the angels.
"I know this is not common among career women," says Tranchesi. "Maybe it is because I am not focused on being rich. I'm not obsessed with money. "
Not that you would ever think Eliana was anything but rich. We've seen her swathed in chinchilla in Milan, a Cartier stalagmite in Paris. When we last met, on display around her champagne glass were an enormous yellow sapphire, and CEO's Rolex.
Yet when Tranchesi insists she "never can tell how many pieces we sold on a particular day," you believe her.
Eliana's mother founded the store in her own house in Sao Paulo's residential quarter of Jardins, initially opening only from 1 to 5 PM. Tranchesi began her career as a salesgirl, and gathered around a group of friends who still run the business. Together they have made Daslu the most agreeable multi-marquee boutique in the world.
Set in a series of interlinked townhouses, Daslu sells everything from designer fashion, fine wines and cigars to French stationary and Copacabana beachfront apartments. Yet for all its wares, Daslu doesn't really feel like a store, but rather like a novel blend of private bedroom and gentleman's club.
Tranchesi's business really took off in 1991 when the newly elected president Fernando Color de Mello removed most of the tariffs on foreign fashion and fabrics.
"I heard that speech on TV and realized that everything was going to be different," Eliana says warmly, recalling that she immediately took off to Europe with $8,000 to spend on fashion.
"It seems so little now. And did we have a hard time convincing people to sell to us. When we showed up in Paris, they acted like they were expecting us to be Indians with snakes from a favelas," she recalls, shaking her head.
Daslu's success is built on attracting the wives and daughters of the Sao Paulo elite, and thus black-suited guards hover around all entrances. One side effect is that the immediate blocks are the safest in Sao Paulo.
"Lots of our friends want their daughters to work there. There is such a good atmosphere and they can learn so much," notes Tranchesi.
Tranchesi was only too aware that many of maids and seamstresses who hover around Daslu in black and white uniforms were too scared to leave their kids in a violent and drug-infested favelas. One boy was shot in crossfire on route to a ghetto school.
Her response was to create a nursery and school for 150 children of the staff. "We have no real turnover," says Tranchesi contentedly.
"In Daslu we want a private house atmosphere. We are all real friends and that is the most important thing. If you go in someone's home and they are fighting, you can sense that right away. It's the same in a shop," she says.
Clients feel so at home they walk around in their underwear, as there are only two proper changing rooms in the huge, rambling shop. These sections are off-limits to men. Natch.
The formula clearly works. In fashion alone, Daslu has gone from ordering a few dozen pieces in Paris to buying 50,000 foreign designer pieces a year. That translates into a whole lot of Chanel, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Manolo and Miu Miu, and the store has helped mightily in putting Sao Paulo on the fashion map.
Daslu even has its own label. In five seasons it has grown from six international clients to 60, who view the collection in a large suite in Paris's Plaza Athenee.
Still, Tranchesi has a novel theory when it comes to her own corporate philosophy. "I think we are under the protection of God. When we have a difficulty we say we call the Angels," she explains one evening in the hotel.
"That's right," agrees her pal and super buyer Donata Meirelles, returning to the Plaza from a buying trip in Milan.
"If we have a complicated problem, like a designer who won't sell to us, we always say let's call the angels," continues Donata, a Paris expert who loves to dance to hot Samba at parties in her large and elegantly eclectic apartment on the Seine.
During the fashion show season, Eliana gets comfortable in the Four Seasons in Milan or the Lowell in Manhattan. She is always with one member of her cabinet. Could be Patrizia Ramalho, editor-in-chief of Daslu's slick magazine, Monica Mendes, former Yohji Yamamoto model, or one of Eliana's teenage daughters.
Back home in Sao Paulo, Tranchesi abodes in a wonderful villa, a mix of tattered fine French furniture, Italianate columns, cool tropical colors, state-of-the-art gym, plus some fine art, like the odd Picasso.
"Here you can relax," she commented at her recent Sao Paulo fashion week garden party. Tranchesi was clearly at home in more than one sense: As guests mingled around the neo-classic cut stone pool enjoying black bean and bacon feijao washed down by caipirinhas of exotic fruits, she just smiled.
Eliana is one of those born generous people. When a raised eyebrow indicated that I was not fully convinced of the celestial spirits' influence on her success, she cries, "I have to get you a special scapula."
The Dasluzetes next big project is a giant new Daslu, on a 130,000 square-foot plot in the wealthy Vila Olimpia area.
"We want the mood to be exactly like Daslu, but with more brands," Tranchesi explains. And more toys for the boys, like Mini Coopers or helicopters, a big status symbol beat-the-traffic purchase in booming Sao Paulo.
And expect some refined dining: The emporium will include a version of the mega hip Paris restaurant L'Avenue, by the architect Jacques Garcia, the brains behind Hotel Costes.
She is not planning a structure in the signature Sao Paulo modernist Oscar Niemeyer style. Explains Eliana, "Modern is great, but Italian is warmer, more cozy."
"There's a fine line between Chaos and Creation"- Sir Paul McCartney
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