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Meet Diego Abba of Italist in Century City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diego Abba.

Diego, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have been in and out of the fashion industry for the past 20 years, starting from my time at Bain and Company. When I was not working on fashion, I have always focused on technology and media, as recently as my previous role as CEO for a technology company in Newport Beach that provided back-end solutions for some of the largest franchises in the video game industry and produced mobile games as well.

I have always enjoyed working in the fashion industry, particularly when I was on the board of a world-leading luxury knitwear company that had business relations with several of the most relevant luxury fashion houses. Probably, the passion for fashion was instilled by my family that had a sartorial dedication to my look—I wore my first tailored jacket at four—and by growing up in Venice, Italy, where there was a tradition for more formal parties at a young age.

For this reason, I am really enjoying being at the helm of italist, because it bridges two worlds that are completely apart and have difficulties to understand each other, both for Silicon Valley that has great difficulties in comprehending and investing in luxury and fashion and for the fashion industry that is still far from fully embracing technology. While we are bridging these two worlds we are trying to create an innovative value proposition for the consumer in terms of product selection, price and convenience of ordering. This is confirmed by the customers who regularly come back to buy on over and over.

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always bumps on the road, that’s what it makes more fun. Personally, I do remember more the professional challenges than the bumps. For example, I have some good memories about tough challenges when I was heading the Finance Department of Procter & Gamble in Vietnam, and we were starting the subsidiary from scratch as a joint venture with the Government that just opened to foreign investments.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Italist story. Tell us more about the business.
I believe that is the best luxury e-commerce site on the market to find in-season, authentic luxury fashion and accessories for up to 30% lower than the local market price. We can do this because we partner with 200 of Italy’s most-respected independent luxury fashion boutiques, add their in-store inventory to our site, and make it available to purchase anywhere in the world—global express shipping is free on every order. The result is a curated selection of over 1,000 worldwide brands at fantastic prices.

Our aim is to combine the curatorial excellence of buyers from the best luxury multi-brand stores in Italy (which represent the bulk of Italy’s overall sales volume of luxury fashion products) with the convenience to buy from home or from your smartphone, at the best price in the world. Hence, no more queues at the airport for VAT refunds, no more complications on custom declarations and payments.

We’re very proud of this innovative model and of our ability to offer excellent deals to savvy consumers. We’re also very passionate about Italian fashion, design, and quality, and are proud to be the only online store dedicated to virtual shopping “as if on the streets of Italy.”

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
It’s fair to say that in this constant evolving scenario of integration of physical and digital, new retail models will emerge; after all, I’m the CEO of a company that is doing just that.

In fact, traditional retailers are trying to leverage their in-store appeal for the consumers and move into the world of e-commerce with an effective omnichannel strategy to sales that offers a seamless shopping experience to customers. However, this is hard to achieve and requires rethinking the whole supply chain and logistics and the fullest utilization of big data and analytics to better understand consumers. It also requires engaging differently with customers. The needed focus is on the interactive relationship with the customers and on compelling storytelling.

I do believe it is more probable to see a true new distribution model once the digital will add-on the physical and not vice-versa. At the end, the consumers are always passionate about creative design, high-quality garments, and the specialness of expressing themselves.

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