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O-Dvision, or how to convince Catalan Fashion designers into selling in New York

Catalan Olga Fontanillas is the founder of this NYC-based company. She assures this is the best time to break into the American market.

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23 March 2011 07:56 PM

by

ACN / Ariadna Matamoros / Ignacio Portela Giráldez

New York (ACN).- New York played host to Fashion Week recently. One of the world\u2019s best showcases and a great chance to get in touch with the American market, it is one of the most complex and competitive events on the fashion calendar. Behind New York\u2019s Fashion Week lies the work of thousands of firms, all helping brands to find their own space on New York\u2019s catwalks. Such is the case of O-Dvision, a consulting firm founded by Catalan Olga Fontanillas, dedicated to helping Spanish brands break into the USA and the Latin American market. \u201CThis is the best moment to start\u201D Fontanillas told CNA, \u201Cas department stores are trusting again in new brands\u201D.


Olga Fontanillas has worked in the North American textile sector for more than 12 years. She arrived to San Francisco in 1996 and two years later, moved to NYC. In the Big Apple she worked for prêt-a-porter firms like Jons New York, Liz Claiborne and Brunello Cucinelli. All this experience helped her to get close to the American \u2018Fashion Business\u2019, and supplied her with all the basic contacts useful for surviving in Manhattan. \u201CHere, the relationships with others are very cold, and business is business. There are a lot of competitors\u201D.

Calling on her experience, this young entrepreneur decided to set up her own firm one year ago and created O-Dvision, in Manhattan\u2019s \u2018Fashion District\u2019, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. \u201CThe aim is to act as a bridge between Spanish and Catalan brands and the American market, as well as providing my commercial experience in the country and all the contacts I have with the great fashion brands and the biggest department stores\u201D, explained Fontanillas. \u201CWe can orientate fashion brands as to the best way to sell in the US and Latin America\u201D.

Fontanillas admits the American market is \u201Ccomplicated\u201D and being \u2018in situ\u2019 is absolutely necessary in order to negotiate with buyers. \u201CIf a brand is planning to go to an American fair and wants to manage the process from Barcelona, it would be best for them to forget about it\u201D because according to O-Dvision\u2019s founder \u201Cuntil you live and work here, you don\u2019t fully understand the way Americans do business\u201D.

Trusting the \u2018Made in Europe\u2019 brand

\u201CThe worst moments came along two years ago\u201D admits Fontanillas, \u201Cwhen department stores decided to eliminate the non-profitable brands from their stands and started giving more space to well-known and recognized brands. Now, with the economic recovery of USA, and especially in New York City, it is the best moment to get a foothold\u201D. In the USA, \u201Cwhat matters most is the product and it must be exclusive and innovative\u201D emphasises the entrepreneur. \u201CAmericans trust the \u2018Made in Europe\u2019 label and if it is worth it, they\u2019ll pay any price\u201D.

O-Dvision is responsible for the commercialization of many Catalan brands such as Diktons Barcelona, present in the US market for many years now and with a faithful clientele; Naulover, a knit factory brand with factory in Catalonia and experience of more than three years in the American market; Lola Casademunt, a brand specialised in jewellery, handbags and scarves, and the shoe brand Castañer. Recently, Olga Fontanilla\u2019s firm is also managing Spanish brands like Jesús del Pozo and Anjara, designers who have presented their new collections in this year\u2019s edition of the New York Fashion Week.

\u201CBarcelona sells\u201D

\u201CIn Catalonia we have important designers, and what\u2019s more, they are excellent\u201D states Fontanella, who always encourages Catalan firms who want to make a go for it in the American market to use the \u2018Barcelona tag\u2019. \u201CMany Americans have travelled to Barcelona, and they love it. Barcelona is like a brand and it sells a lot\u201D. The entrepreneur suggests that Barcelona should have its own Fashion Week and an international catwalk, because the city \u201Ccan easily attract people\u201D. Another option, she said, is to get economic investment from the Catalan Government in order to set up a Catalan Fashion Week in New York.

Despite their desire to expand abroad, Fontanillas claims that many fashion brands take a step backwards when they have to enter the US market because of the great costs such a move involves. She estimates a firm needs at least 50,000 euros if it wants to compete in the American market for one year, a difficult call in times of economical crisis. \u201CIt is a really hard decision\u201D she claims, \u201Cbut in other cities like Madrid, once companies have made up their minds they go for it, and don\u2019t really care that much about the price\u201D.   

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  • Olga Fontanillas in her New York showroom (by A. Matamoros)

  • Olga Fontanillas in her New York showroom (by A. Matamoros)