Re­tail Spe­cial­ized, Art De­moc­ra­tized

Red Magazine - - Accessories -

In Raul Fran­cisco’s case, the adage “Once bit­ten, twice shy,” doesn’t quite ap­ply. At the age of 40, he can­didly con­fesses to “los­ing ev­ery­thing” af­ter his first re­tail ven­ture Central Maquil­lage was forced to close down, a ca­su­alty of the 1997 Asian cur­rency cri­sis.

“I had to re­build ev­ery­thing all over again,” he re­calls. “It was a hor­ri­fy­ing jour­ney as I’d felt so burnt out by re­tail.”

His en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit took hold once more, though, and to­gether with his wife Joanna Preysler, he ven­tured into re­tail once again, open­ing Car­bon in 2001. “That took off. It was in Green­belt, which was be­ing repo­si­tioned at the time. Then we rolled out an­other con­cept, which we called Tint. We never re­ally wanted to roll out a lot of stores, maybe be­cause I was be­ing cau­tious.

“My idea was to stay small and tight. With the in­flux of over­seas brands in the market, I felt that if you don’t do some­thing dif­fer­ent, you’ll get swal­lowed up by the tsunami of for­eign brands; you just have to look at the lo­cal re­tail scene now to know what I mean. And the for­eign brands still con­tinue to come in, so the land­scape has com­pletely changed. If you don’t have the muscle, like Bench or Pen­shoppe, who are go­ing regional now… peo­ple who couldn’t adapt or adopt new busi­ness mod­els pretty much got hurt.”

The same fate might have awaited Car­bon and Tint had they failed to ad­just to the new market re­al­i­ties. “We had to think dif­fer­ently. We did the Joanna Preysler bou­tique then opened Eterno. We said, let’s go up­mar­ket and change our busi­ness model.”

In­deed, he poses an im­por­tant ques­tion: “How do you out-H&M H&M? How do you out-Zara Zara? You can’t. So the idea was to go up­mar­ket and tar­get a small niche. That was strate­gi­cally planned: to build re­la­tion­ships with this small niche of peo­ple who could ac­tu­ally af­ford to buy P150,000 bags. That’s a very se­lect market. From there, we sort of mi­grated those cus­tomers back to Car­bon. [First] they trust you with their bags, now it’s on to clothes, and now to art, with Prove­nance Gallery.

“You have to look at and con­nect the dots dif­fer­ently. In­stead of the shot­gun ef­fect, so to speak, we did tar­get shoot­ing. We’re like Davids in a sea of Go­liaths. It’s a chal­lenge, but it’s fun.”

Fran­cisco and Preysler took the same mav­er­ick ap­proach to sell­ing art. It’s a bit of a span­ner into the re­tail mix, with Prove­nance Gallery open­ing 18 months ago. He admits that, strictly speak­ing, they are nei­ther gal­lerists nor deal­ers, although the cou­ple has been col­lect­ing art for years.

“The plan with the gallery was to cre­ate a plat­form for Filipino con­tem­po­rary art on a global scale. Be­ing in a mall within a lux­ury ho­tel, you have Filipinos, you have tourists, you have all the ex­pats in the area… you get a lot of foot traf­fic here. We’re not an un­der­ground in­cu­ba­tor type of gallery that’s like this se­cret des­ti­na­tion. In fact, a lot of peo­ple frown upon prom­e­nade gal­leries like ours, be­ing a gallery in the mall. But I think that if you talk to the artists, [you’ll find out] they want to be viewed by a wider au­di­ence, not just a se­lect few. If you look at it more demo­crat­i­cally, we’re bring­ing art to the peo­ple.

“It’s not about the [sale]; it’s about be­ing able to show and be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated, from stu­dents all the way to se­ri­ous col­lec­tors. I guess even when it comes to art, we’re try­ing to change the game.”

Raul Fran­cisco of Prove­nance Art Gallery Raul Fran­cisco takes a dif­fer­ent route in ex­pand­ing busi­ness

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