Catching Up: Raffi Shaya

by MR Magazine Staff

After spending an hour or so recently highlighting the new Hamptons-inspired spring ‘08 RS collection, Raffi (ever the salesman) is trying to drive home a point about impulse purchasing. “This collection is focused, easy to buy and easy to wear,” he insists. I agree, adding that customers today don’t need more clothes, so our job as an industry is to create a “want.” Rick Fortuna (RS national sales manager) begs to differ, however, pointing out that if you look at how most men dress (on the train coming into the city from the suburbs, for example), it’s very clear that they do need new clothes. The problem is that they don’t realize it.

That said, the RS Collection offers some outstanding items to update any guy’s wardrobe. It’s contemporary in feeling but not extreme, or as Fortuna puts it, “Everything’s cut a little trimmer; we want our guys to look good, but not silly.”

Raffi points out the leather under-collar detail on a nylon sportcoat modeled by Rick Fortuna.

Among my favorite items: a fabulous unconstructed unlined leather-trimmed soft cotton sportcoat, available in cotton ($130 cost for a suggested retail of $295 to $325; some stores are going to $395) and in a lightweight packable nylon ($120 cost, see photo of Rick). I also love the nylon cargo pants and shorts, the floral printed western-inspired linen shirts (in fact, I love all the linen shirts, many with snap-tab roll-up sleeves: the all-white grouping is exceptional), the luxurious waffle weave knit crew in silk/cotton/cashmere, and the linen/cotton pants and sportcoat in a perfect shade of olive drab (fabulous with the white linen shirts!)

While we all know that product (design/quality/fit/hand/color/details) is the fundamental reason why a collection works or doesn’t, upscale specialty merchants love to work with Raffi for reasons that go beyond product. These include: 1) his strong in-stock positions on key items (last fall it was cashmere) that allow stores to do a high-volume business with minimal initial investment (although Mike Rosenberg worries that they’ve trained buyers too well about in-season re-orders and that upfront commitments are more needed with collection vs. classification businesses); 2) the strong margin potential (generally 60 to 70 points but often higher); and 3) Raffi’s genuine attitude of gratefulness. “I truly appreciate their business; I never take it for granted,” he confides.

Training a third generation: Raffi, Jake, Mike and Andrew.

Nor does he take for granted his beautiful family (his mother in Israel recently turned 100, two of his daughter are pregnant), and the profound joy of being alive and being able to enjoy life. It’s impossible to work with Raffi without catching his positive energy and joie de vivre. L’chayim!