Portuguese abroad — Sofia Silva

Text: Paulo Gonçalves
Photo: Nuno Santiago

She was born in S. João da Madeira, one of the epicentres of the Portuguese footwear industry. Sofia Silva studied business management at the University of Porto, but it was in Milan, at the famous Bocconi, that the universe of design, luxury and fashion definitely won her over. She started her professional career at PwC, and worked for Guess and Sephora. But, it is at Dsquared2 that she stands out.

“All the experiences have been very enriching,” she adds. For Sofia Silva, “Fashion companies live a constant dilemma, which involves finding the necessary balance between the financial sustainability of a company and the creative area”. Sofia Silva is the Retail Franchising Manager of the Italian brand, promoting the connection between the company and the more than 20 single-brand stores in a franchising regime, in particular in the Middle East and Asia.

You were born in a city with a strong connection to a fashion sector, footwear. Has working in the world of fashion always been a goal or a coincidence?

It was clearly a coincidence. This desire arose after having finished my Erasmus placement in Milan, and having taken a course linked to Fashion Management. I guess that’s when my doubts dissipated.

The fact that you studied in Italy changed your perception of things?

It wasn’t really changing the perception of things, but it was more about deepening and learning everything I know about this sector. And I don’t know everything. On the contrary: learning is a constant and it is never enough.

You work at Dsquared2 today. What else fulfils you in the functions you perform?

It fulfils me that I am in constant contact with cultures and ways of thinking that are different from mine and, as a consequence, the way I approach people from different countries with different cultures and ways of thinking. More specifically about my area, the fact that a product with good sales in Europe is no guarantee of sales in other markets. You need to understand, visit and understand the different forms of the consumer buying process, be it Asian, Arabic, etc. It is really very enriching and makes you grow, not only professionally, but also on a personal level.

You regularly travel the world. In what ways can cultural habits influence a brand’s commercial strategy?

I think that a brand’s business strategy should have a global approach in order to be easily recognised around the world. But in order to develop smartly in markets that are more distant and different from ours, it is necessary to first study the economic situation of the region, how the city where the brand will be present is structured, identify an ideal location for the brand, preferably close to competitors (or aspirational competitors), position it correctly in terms of price and, very importantly, have the product adapted to that market. Knowledge of certain territories and their specificities is crucial to success.

Can you give us some examples?

Do you want to succeed in China? You need to open a store in Hong Kong first. In the footwear area? You can focus on approaching South Africa, because the symbol status of people can be seen by what they put on their feet. You can’t, for example, sell a four-inch heel in China, because nobody wears it. Or they’re gonna go crazy with bling bling shoes full of glitter.

What plans do you have for your future?

My plan is to be happy and have iron-clad health for many years with my family. It is also important to have a job that fulfils me personally and professionally. One day I would really like to work with a Portuguese brand that intends to expand into more distant markets.

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