06 Sep Behind The Scene’s Of ALDO’s Brand & Head Office
Reading time: 7 minutes
On a rainy afternoon, I walked in the ALDO GROUP head office right at lunch time. The bustle of the employees became more and more evident as the clock ticked 12. Everyone was walking toward the ALDO cafeteria in the main hall. This cafeteria is truly like none other.
Beautiful sculptures and paintings across the hall, a large restaurant and rows of seating. Not to mention, there was a coffee and snack bar, on top of the many lunch options for the day. They even have a healthy and vegan option for you on the daily.
As the clock struck 12:10, Samantha Hughes came down to meet me in her beautiful black and red ALDO kimono, and we had a chat in the hall about everything ALDO. Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes?
How they set up the stores? How they decide which shoes to sell next? Keep reading to find what happens at ALDO and how the creative process comes about.
AZ: Tell me about your education and your career path?
SH: I went to college and studied a 3 year marketing program. I could either go straight into my career path, or I could get extra credits to go to university. On the 3rd year, you were able to get an internship where you could work in a company for 6 weeks.
The school would send 4-6 Canadian students to do an internship in Paris, so I applied and got picked! I was working at ALDO in customer service and in store.
While I was working in Paris, a woman from the head office came by because she was doing a marketing trip. She didn’t speak much french and the other employees didn’t speak much english. We hit it off and she basically ended up wanting to hire me.
I had planned on going backpacking for three months after my internship, so I actually had to turn down the job. It killed me inside, but I didn’t want to drop this three month backpacking trip. I was also planning on going to University when I got back, but I ended up giving her a call instead.
She told me she had another job for me in merchandising. I went to the office to have a conversation with her but she ended up presenting me with a contract. I thought about it on the spot and signed it.
I started doing visual merchandising for international. I was working with 92 different countries where I learned a lot about the world. That job taught me about how people live across the globe and how they shop.
As much as I did learn a lot, after 4 years, I was ready for something else. Something came up in product development and I took advantage of that.
AZ: Did you always have a passion for fashion and does the love for fashion run in your family?
SH: I’ve always really loved fashion. It’s never been in my family at all. My family is really involved in sports. Specifically, the golf industry, which is really different from fashion. I thought maybe I would do marketing in more of a fast forward environment, but it just fell all together.
I was in stores for such a long time where I did accessories, footwear, I worked at Call It Spring too, Globo, Feet first, Little Burgundy. I did them all.
We would flip from one store to another whenever they needed help. ALDO owned all of those stores and because I flipped so much, I felt like I knew the company so well because it’s all I’ve ever done.
I feel like it all fell right in front of me and I got lucky.
AZ: What does a line builder do exactly?
SH: In women’s, they develop products based on casual, dress, boots or on seasonal. In men’s, you do everything, every season, the outlet business, the core business. You do it all.
We search a lot online for inspiration and we google everything including designers and competitors. With that inspiration, we develop other things. We basically conceptualize an idea.
We take a best selling product, we work with buying, then we say which colors we need, we pick a material that sells best and then we tweak it.
We conceptualize a bunch of ideas together, and then the buyers confirm. The design team then draws it out and work with the engineering team to see what actually works on each shoe.
Everyone approves it as a team, we send it to China and the final shoe, we either approve it or we don’t.
AZ: Where do you seek your inspiration from when building collections?
SH: We brows a lot on social media, mostly Instagram. We look at who’s wearing what and how are they styling it. It’s all the concept around the shoe too.
We also think about the type of person that will be wearing a shoe. For men’s, we created these categories to split every type of man.
We have the classic category for men who wear easy sneakers on a day to day, with a pant and a nice shirt. Then, we have the street guy who wears a shirt and sweatpants. He’s kind of cool and into social media, so he’s basically the guy who’s into trends.
Then we have the “European guy” that’s into more sleeker things. Finally, we have the “American guy” who’s into the rugged material, distressed leathers and bigger shoes like boots.
AZ: Do you do fashion week, if so, what’s your role during that time?
SH: No, but we go shopping. We go to the big fashion hubs and different trade shows to see what’s to come. We do a lot of shopping trips where we seek inspiration and take pictures of everything around.
We also check our stores and the competition in each hub like in LA, New York, Paris, Tokyo. We analyze the type of people around and how they style looks too. Also, we buy a lot of samples to look at the material composition or the shape of the toe or the flexibility.
It’s not to copy the competition. We basically buy what we see sells and we also go to bars to just look at what people wear. It’s all for research purposes.
AZ: What part of your job do you love the most?
SH: The shopping trips. We don’t go to all of them, but I like getting out of the office and seeing what’s going on outside on a day to day basis. People aren’t as focused on their shoes as we may think, so it’s interesting to see.
I also like receiving the shoe samples. A lot of the time, my job is a lot of systematic work too that nobody talks about.
Entering all that data and then actually getting the shoe is so exciting! It’s a crazy feeling to go from conceptualizing a shoe, to seeing it in your hands.
Especially when the buyers are excited to see the shoe and it was your idea. It also happens that you conceptualize a shoe and your colleagues say “What were you thinking?”.
Sometimes, you see a shoe everyone thought was going to be great, and then it comes in, and it looks totally off. It happens!
AZ: What is the company culture like at ALDO?
SH: It’s really fun actually. Imagine being in a building where everyone likes fashion and everybody looks good. It’s such a cool vibe and there are so many activities they do around here.
Just the fact that they recruited me in a store shows how much they trust even their in-store staff. They have even competitions like Club Elite, where if an in-store employee sells a certain amount of bags or shoes, they can win a trip, a TV, an iPad, and more.
At head office, we have a summer picnic once a year where we do activities outside. They have recognition programs where you can win a nice award and a cool activity like a day at the spa. There’s a lot of fundraising that goes on. We go every Christmas or we plant trees for a day.
It’s all on office hours too, so we’re paid to do all these cool things. We also do bike rides to concur cancer where ALDO sponsors the staff and provide us with amazing hotel amenities afterwards.
AZ: Do you only wear ALDO shoes?
SH: Yes. My dress shoes and my boots are all ALDO. Sneakers though, I don’t wear from ALDO. I’m also a sample size, so I get a lot of good shoes. All the shoes that don’t sell, we have a sample sale with for a much cheaper price and all that money goes to charity.
AZ: What can we expect to see at ALDO this coming fall?
SH: In the core pops of colors there is yellow, khaki and plaid this season. We do also always have our main colors: the white, the black, the navy and the tan. We took a lot of the street look and put it into casual this season, which we consider formalized street style. There are also a lot of boots, especially Chelsea boots.
SH: ALDO behind the scenes is not only a stylish shoe company, but also one that takes care of its employees, that’s interactive and that gives back to society often.
Hope you enjoyed the interview! Big thanks to Samantha Hughes.
Comment below which pair of ALDO shoes are your favourite.
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