Aldomartins: Behind the Most International Jacquard Designs
5 February, 2015
Igualada-based label Aldomartins exports eighty percent of production. Its designs can be found in 32 countries around the world, in a total of 1,500 multibrand stores.
The first quarter of the year is always the busiest for the Aldomartins team. First they visit Paris, then they attend 080 Barcelona Fashion, and finally they cross the Atlantic to showcase their designs at http://www.enkshows.com/coterie/.
The firm’s designer, Núria Bisbal, agrees to meet us in the middle of this hectic schedule and just after returning from France. We talk about her future projects and go over the family firm’s history, in the run-up to the Barcelona fashion event where Aldomartins will present its 2016 autumn/winter collection, a work inspired by period Alpine sports and winter folk tales.
Early forays abroad
“Some years ago, when we first wanted to get into exporting, we were quickly identified as a label with a very colourful touch and original jacquard designs. We come up with extensive and varied collections with a great deal of quality and good designs,” Bisbal says, by way of explaining Aldomartins’ appeal abroad.
In addition to the quality propositions and colourful designs, there is also the experience of a company that has been courting foreign markets for 20 years. Martí Bisbal, the Aldomartins founder and current CEO, made the decision to launch internationally in 1998. As for many Catalan companies at the time, the setting was next door, in France. Bisbal took the Aldomartins designs to the Pret-â-Pórter show in the French capital.
That initial step into the international arena came about because he was convinced it was necessary to expand sales borders to continue to grow, and following a considerable investment in the production infrastructure, the present Aldomartins factory, which was built in 1995. The facility covers 4,000 square metres, is located in Igualada and employs 60 people.
Together with other labels from the area, Aldomartins is a fantastic example of the way that constant innovation in textile machinery can guarantee a presence, following the long crisis in the Catalan textile sector. “We have remained true to our product. We make everything here. We have also remained true to the label’s creative spirit and the result is a unique product,” says Núria Bisbal, satisfied with the appeal garnered by the combinations of wool, mohair, cashmere and silk they use in their urban, contemporary designs each season.
Bisbal, along with her two siblings, are the second generation to join the firm. In their father, Martí Bisbal, the children saw a designer always setting his cap at new challenges. “He is very intuitive in business; he has a nose for design and product sales. He actually used to design as well, and as a good businessperson has always been involved in the entire production process”.
The current Aldomartins CEO’s experience helped him, in his daughter’s words, “keep him focused and able to draw on his knowledge to seek new areas to commit to.” This attitude explains why the Bisbal family firm, founded in 1975, is still going strong today.
It releases a collection of 200 pieces of all-woollen clothing on the market each season. “Most of our effort goes into creating good collections every season and which surprise our customers. We are constantly innovating and try at the same time to remain commercial. At the end of the day, selling is the key to moving forwards,” says Núria Bisbal.
She has been working with the company since 1997. She runs the design department and is surprised when we remind her that it will soon be 20 years since she began creating new designs for Aldomartins every season. “Twenty, already! I like my job. I’m lucky that it’s never dull and that each collection is a new challenge. At the same time, I try not to think that there’s nothing new to work on, otherwise you would lose your enthusiasm”.
Slow and steady wins the race
The designs that Núria Bisbal is in charge of always include a nod to trends but she isn’t obsessed by the latest fashions. “There will always be other brands that can get them out to the customer faster,” Núria Bisbal says, adding, “The sorts of firms that design and manufacture almost at the same time so you can find their products in-store straight away”.
Aldomartins, on the other hand, designs 18 months before it distributes the pieces to the multibrand stores. The company always manufactures to order and has a minimum stock in the warehouse to supply customers who have already bought the goods. “You have to be careful, because trends are so volatile. At the same time, however, you need to have a nose for sniffing trends out, because it is important to stay ahead of customer tastes and what they want. In short, we try to have a signature style in terms of innovation and creation and not depend on fleeting trends.”
The fashion sector “can be like a race”, the designer says, acknowledging that sometimes “you don’t know what season you’re working in”. She agrees with her fashion colleagues that fashion turnaround times are increasingly fast. “The trade shows are held earlier, the stores want you to supply them sooner and the cold weather often still hasn’t arrived when summer fashion starts to appear in the store windows. Then, when the right season comes along, the sales start. It can sometimes be a bit full-on; even I don’t understand it. It’s like we’re living out of sync with the season”.
However, the feeling of tackling different fronts at the same time is no obstacle to her. “You’re often working on three campaigns at the same time. You can be manufacturing one, finishing another and selling and promoting it at trade shows and in showrooms and beginning to design the third. It’s chaotic but exciting!”
Martí Bisbal’s example and experience mean that the second generation at Aldomartins is keenly aware of the sacrifices involved with running a business. They know that the priority is to maintain a firm market presence. “It hasn’t been easy so far,” they say, recalling that, while remaining loyal to their core business is a must, internationalisation continues to be the firm’s most important project, and Japan is the market where they would most like to boost their presence in the short term.