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Stefano Rivera (B04), CEO at Scabal: “It felt like a natural fit to work with ESSEC”




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Stefano Rivera (B04), CEO of tailor house Scabal, explains how he’s bringing his brand into the future.

EA: How did you become CEO at Scabal? 

Stefano Rivera: I have worked in very different industries and I have been very fortunate to cover challenging and interesting roles. All these experiences have helped me in developing a broad array of capabilities that are critical to lead and continuously transform Scabal.

EA: Did you know anything about cloth and tailoring before joining Scabal?

S. Rivera: Since my twenties I have been dressing made to measure, and have always appreciated the quality of a well-made garment and the emotional value of a beautiful cloth. This last point was a very convincing argument for both the board and the management team to accept me as their CEO.

EA: Where did Scabal stand as a brand when you got on board?

S. Rivera: Scabal, as most small and medium enterprises I guess, had a talent pool that was limited and concentrated on managing key processes only. Most managers grew within the company. They were good in managing the present but unprepared to continuously improve and step up product, processes and organisation when needed. Conversely, a few years before I joined Scabal the market began changing and the company needed significant transformation to stay relevant to the times and win the challenges ahead.
In this context, the board of Scabal and I concluded that my international profile and experiences in other industries would be instrumental to review and implement a much-needed new direction.

EA: Where does Scabal stand now? 

S. Rivera: Scabal is a private group of 12 companies, which accounts for 50M€ in sales and 650 people operating globally in the premium and luxury apparel industry. Two thirds of our business is cloth and one third is made to measure garments. Our cloth is designed and woven in our mill in Huddersfield, UK and sold mostly to global luxury brands for either ready to wear collections or made to measure garments.
A second very important channel for our cloth is the luxury tailors who have been our ambassadors for the last 80 years. Our own made to measure garments are designed in Brussels and tailored in our ateliers in either Saarbrücken, Germany or Mangualde, Portugal. The key markets for our garments are Northern Europe, USA and China.

EA: How does made to measure perform on the market nowadays?

S. Rivera: Made to measure garments are taking an increasingly significant share of the tailoring business. There are two key drivers for this trend: men’s image consciousness, and their desire for self-branding versus buying into a ready-made garment designed by a brand. 

EA: Why such a shift?

S. Rivera: Over the last few years the dress code for men in the workplace has shifted from suit and tie every day to a variety of choices – from jeans and shirt to chinos and jacket or suit depending on the occasion or simply the mood of the day. Men today are more at ease when buying clothing and the increasing source of information available on the internet has made them informed buyers that appreciate the difference between a “one size fits all” ready to wear suit or jacket as opposed to a made to measure garment that can be personalised to fit one’s taste and needs.

EA: Is this a worldwide trend?

S. Rivera: This trend is significant in North America, UK, Germany, Southern Europe or Japan where tailors survived the 70s and 80s when ready to wear industrial productions wiped out many tailor-made suits. However, the fastest growing market is China where men from ages 25 to 70 are discovering and appreciating the advantages of made to measure garments. In France, this trend has accelerated over the last few years but mostly in the Paris area, the rest of the country hasn’t showed appetite yet for made to measure.

EA: Who does made to measure appeal to?

S. Rivera: Today’s made to measure customers cover a wide range of profiles, as I just mentioned. Scabal serves the premium and luxury made to measure segment. The typical customer of Scabal is a gentleman who wants to dress well and appreciates a well-cut tailored garment. He wants an exclusive and superfine cloth chosen from our very large selection of designs, weights or constructions. The Scabal customer appreciates the value of understated elegance, he wants to be recognised for his personal taste, refinement and sophistication. 

EA: Scabal has been partnering with ESSEC Alumni for two years now. How come? 

S. Rivera: This has been led by Nathan Hellard (E14), who leads our retail development for France. We have supported a number of the College activities such as the TGE Rugby event, the Golf Tournament and the Gala. I also gave a master class for the ESSEC Executive at the CNIT. We view ESSEC as one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe so it felt like a natural fit that we would work together. Also, Nathan Hellard and I are both graduates from the school, so we have a personal connection.

EA: You also set an exclusive offer for alumni. Can you tell us more?

S. Rivera: We offer our fellow alumni to create their own made to measure suit at introductory rates. This is not something that we would normally do but we like to build long term relationships with our customers. We see this as an investment. I am glad to say almost fifty students and graduates now wear Scabal suits thanks to that initiative. All the more reason to expand the number and variety of fabrics we offer – from traditional wools to flannels, cottons and corduroys, even. It brings an entirely new depth to customisation. 

Interview by Louis Armengaud Wurmser (E10), Content Manager at ESSEC Alumni

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