Known to be the King of Cashmere, Curator of Color, and Creator of Acqua Cotton, Raffi Shaya is famous above all for his unique ability to look at life through (literal and figurative) rose-colored glasses. To this successful entrepreneur, his business is not about just making a living but rather about pursuing what he loves: designing, traveling, learning, teaching, inspiring, golfing, dancing, and philosophizing, all while subtly selling, and always making interesting new friends.
Here, we catch up with Raffi to find out how he’s faring post-pandemic.
So first things first, how are you feeling?
Never better! A while back, I had both of my knees fixed a day apart and to the doctor’s amazement, I started doing leg lifts in bed just hours post-surgery. I exercise, I play golf, I ski. My secret is simple: I believe in modern medicine and as soon as I sense something wrong, I see the doctor and do what’s recommended. I don’t understand people who ignore medical problems; nine times out of 10 they can be fixed. Wellness secret #2 is even easier: stay positive, look at the bright side, take time to appreciate all that you have. Attitude is everything, in business and in life!
ABOVE: Raffi shows off those new knees for daughters Shirley and Limor, wife Arlette, our own Karen Alberg Grossman, and daughter Kareen.
So how is business lately: have you recovered from the pandemic?
Business has been strong, mostly because our Long Island warehouse is serving as an in-house replenishment center for retailers who no longer have to place large orders upfront but can now rely on reorders. We stock a broad range of colors and sizes that we can ship out immediately. I tell our accounts that my warehouse is their warehouse: their tank will never be empty.
Also, I’m lucky to have my wife Arlette, all three of our daughters and a very strong team in business with me: their expertise and diverse talents have truly accelerated our recovery.
What about the supply chain problems that have besieged the entire market?
They still exist but because we have strong long-standing partnerships with our mills, knitters and factories, and because we commit early and come to them with ideas, they work with us to make sure we get what we need. They take care of us.
How does your DTC business impact your wholesale sales?
It’s only a small percent of our business and many retailers say it’s actually helped the Raffi business in their stores. Their customers can now view the broad scope of the collection online and then buy it in their local specialty store. If the store doesn’t have it, we ship it out immediately. This also lets retailers know what their customers want that the store might not have been carrying. In most cases, an online presence is now viewed as marketing, not competition. It’s no longer a negative. That said, our focus remains exceptional customer service for upscale specialty stores, most of whom are getting 65-70 percent markups.
What have you learned from the pandemic?
In many ways, the pandemic was a wake-up call, not just a reminder to celebrate life but also a cry for new fashion options: new yarns, new models, new colors. You know, fashion is hardly a frivolous pursuit: the way you look very much affects the way you feel. If you’re not happy with the person you see in the mirror, then it’s hard to be happy with anything else. So, I advise people: always show your best self. When I can get a guy into quality fashion items in current models and fresh colors, I often see a total change in his personality. And seeing this type of transformation is what drives me to keep creating.