GEN­ER­A­TION GRIT

Tocco Toscano’s CEO Joseph Lor gave his all to re­vive his fam­ily’s leather bag busi­ness – while launch­ing a new brand along the way.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents - TEXT KAREN TEE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY DAR­REN CHANG ART DI­REC­TION DENISE REI LOW

Joseph Lor hasn’t gone on va­ca­tion since 2015. As the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Tocco Toscano, the 33year-old has been too busy turn­ing around the busi­ness his fa­ther ran for 29 years to in­dulge in such lux­u­ries.

The straight-talker who joined the leather bag and ac­ces­sories brand in 2012 says: “I ques­tioned if there was a fu­ture for the busi­ness. I looked at the busi­ness model and saw many is­sues in pro­cesses and pro­to­col.” But sen­ti­men­tal­ity for the fam­ily legacy won out and he de­cided he would give it his best shot. “In or­der to keep the com­pany run­ning, I had to let go of peo­ple,” says Lor, who as­sumed the po­si­tion of CEO from his fa­ther in 2016, at a point when the com­pany had ac­cu­mu­lated a large amount of losses.

He has pulled out all the stops over the past few years. “I was the sales­per­son and de­liv­ery guy. I slept in the of­fice for six months straight.”

Once, he even left a wed­ding cer­e­mony at which he was a guest to at­tend to a cus­tomer re­quest at the store. “She didn’t know who I was and later wrote in to com­mend us on the good ser­vice,” he says with a laugh. In­deed, Lor’s full body of tat­toos doesn’t im­me­di­ately cast him as a typ­i­cal C-suite fig­ure. Even when he’s wear­ing a suit, a crown-shaped tat­too in­scribed with his fam­ily name peeks out from un­der the col­lar.

To get younger cus­tomers in­ter­ested in Toscano, a brand com­monly as­so­ci­ated with a more ma­ture crowd, he in­tro­duced colour­ful add-ons such as bag straps and wristlets. This month, the brand will de­but tote bags that come with such de­tach­able in­serts as a shoul­der bag with hid­den RFID-block­ing com­part­ments to pre­vent elec­tronic pick­pock­et­ing of pass­port and credit card de­tails.

While he de­clines to re­veal spe­cific fig­ures, Lor shares that he man­aged to im­prove the com­pany’s net profit po­si­tion by about $1 mil­lion. He also teamed up with busi­ness part­ner Ryan Choy to launch Faire Leather Co – an on­line la­bel fea­tur­ing stylish yet func­tional men’s ac­ces­sories – last No­vem­ber. The brand was launched on Kick­starter with a sin­gle bag, the Bond Travel Brief­case. “That was a bag I de­signed for my­self. I pack a lot in my bag and it takes me ages to fi nd any­thing,” he says. “I had a pretty good idea that other guys would buy it.”

Ever the savvy en­tre­pre­neur, Lor, who holds a dual de­gree in elec­tri­cal/elec­tronic en­gi­neer­ing and biomed­i­cal sci­ence from the Univer­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia, fig­ured a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign was the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to mar­ket Faire. His strat­egy worked: With $406,228 raised from 1,143 back­ers, it is the sec­ond most funded Kick­starter cam­paign in Sin­ga­pore to date. The brand hit $1 mil­lion in sales within 10 months of op­er­a­tions.

To­day, Faire of­fers a range of 15 items. Lor sketches most of the ini­tial con­cepts for the prod­ucts, a skill born of child­hood hob­bies such as paint­ing with wa­ter­colours and draw­ing comic char­ac­ters. Not bad for some­one whose child­hood am­bi­tion was to be­come an artist. “Tech­ni­cally, I am an artist in some way. I’m just not sell­ing art on a piece of pa­per, I’m sell­ing a prod­uct.”

CLAS­SI­FIED PORT­FO­LIO Lor de­signed Faire Leather Co’s Bond Travel Brief­case with mul­ti­ple com­part­ments and fea­tures to keep his be­long­ings or­gan­ised.

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