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The Adora expression

Rewriting the gold standard by which luxury shopping, efficient service, and beautiful stories are conveyed, measured, and shared

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  • The sense of arrival at Adora is just like (entering) a cocoon for people who love fashion in different degrees —Donnie Tantoco
  • An Adora pastel handbag ‘story’
  • The iconic Adora pistachio green box
  • Chloé ‘Drew’ mini saddle bag
  • Stella McCartney cut-out platforms
  • Valentino ‘Rockstud’ tote
  • Qwstion tote
  • Jimmy Choo nude pumps and clutch
  • Jaspal Man brogue shoes
  • From left: Eddie Pineda, Marilen Tantoco, Merl Pineda, Emman Pineda, Amb. Bienvenido Tantoco, Nedy Tantoco, and Rico Tantoco
  • Pretty Ballerinas flats
  • Valentino ‘Rockstud’ pumps
  • Donnie Tantoco
  • Javi Martinez and Erica Ilacad
  • Tim Yap, Iza Calzado, and Erwan Heussaff
  • Solenn Heussaff, Renato Enriquez, Rian Ramos, and Lovi Poe
  • Anton Huang and Patrick Jacinto

Images by Noel Pabalate Video by John Alvin Veri and Angelo Alejandro

No one at Adora would be so crass as to make a hard sales pitch of, say, a pair of Jimmy Choo pumps or a Chloe bag or JKJY sneakers. On the contrary, the retail staff who would escort you around the 2,500-square-meter multi-brand retail destination at Greenbelt 5 would ably and nimbly present you three or 10 options of what you’re currently looking for—across brands, styles, and collections. At Adora, you can either walk away with an item you intended to buy and leave; or you can linger, look around, and shop a little more. Odds are, 99 percent of the time, you will succumb a little more.

“The sense of arrival at Adora is just like (entering) a cocoon for people who love fashion in different degrees,” says Bienvenido “Donnie” V. Tantoco III, Rustan Commercial Corporation (RCC) president. “You just walk around and you see there’s a different environment here than the others. The fitting room experience is wonderful, you feel like you’re in a boudoir. The bathroom is nice. The people are so pleasant and happy and so knowledgeable. Like a concierge but one who’s very literate and passionate about fashion.”

Video by John Alvin Veri and Angelo Alejandro

Known and loved for its modern yet tastefully edited selection of preferred pieces from super brands like Valentino, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, and many others, the store has become a destination, “a shopping mecca,” as Donnie puts it, for women and men who know exactly what they want and work hard to get it. And as Adora officially relaunches as part of the Rustan’s group, there’s a new level of luxury seen and felt within the store that extends far beyond handmade shoes, tailored shirts, and carefully crafted handbags with six-digit price tags.

“We acquired Adora a year and a half ago but we’re only doing the relaunch now because it took us about a year to bring in the strength of Rustan’s while respecting the DNA of Adora and making sure that the customer base, the ethos of the brand, what Adora is and means, as it was envisioned by founders Emman Pineda and Marilou Tantoco Pineda, is maintained,” Donnie says.

In a nutshell, the “infusion” is Rustan’s strengthening the signature elements Adora was already very well-known for—inspiring explorations, curating personal experiences, fulfilling aspirations—and adding brands that already existed within the group to support what Adora currently offers. “When everything was in place, we decided now—with what Adora had, what Rustan’s added—we can do a launch under the ownership of the Rustan Group. But still the Adora way, the Adora interpretation, the Adora curation, the Adora expression,” he adds.

Experiential Curation

Since the advent of  “masstige,” otherwise known as accessible luxury, exclusive brands around the world—from New Delhi to Barcelona to New York to Tokyo—have been trying to reclaim true luxury by stressing its inaccessibility, but to little or no avail, especially in these parts. In the age of the Internet, a designer item photo hardly merits a double tap in a flooded newsfeed (unless its re-seller’s) anymore. To put in context, it’s not what Dolce & Gabbana shirt you’re wearing; it’s the life you’re in a Dolce & Gabbana shirt.

“Suddenly, it’s not just a shirt. It’s not just a shirt that makes you look good. The reason you feel this beyond fit, look, and brand, it is deeper. It’s getting harder to explain,” Donnie says.” So retailers like Adora and Rustan’s need to cut through the shaft and tell a simple meaningful story and make a simple meaningful connection. “I think retailers now have to be good in three things: You need to edit, you need to curate, and you need to choreograph,” he adds.

For Erica Ilacad, marketing manager at Adora, exclusivity alone has lost its charm for very discerning and discriminating people. “What we do now is we edit the selection of brands for them, curate it for them, and present it to them in stories. So that when they come to our store they see a little bit of everything, a correct merchandise mix in one beautiful space,” Erica says. That is if a client has the time to drive to Greenbelt to check out the store.


Personalized shopping

Apart from modern women and men who shop what they please, know what they want, and don’t get easily swayed by flashy trends, the Adora shopper is also very busy. Add to that the horrible traffic conditions in Metro Manila. This is why, according to Erica, it’s important for the frontline staff to deliver efficient service in and out of the store.

“Our regular clients sometimes message us via Viber or WhatsApp and ask us to send photos of new arrivals. So we’ll send whatever we have in their size and they’ll just send somebody to pick up the item or we do something for delivery. Which is not strictly a policy of ours, but we work with what is most convenient for clients. For us, at the end of the day, it’s about efficiency and sincere service,” Erica says.

Adora is hardly the first luxury retail concept to upgrade its VVIP shopping environment until it blurs resemblance to a store in the conventional sense. But service is such a big part of what they do that when they train their staff, they benchmark against luxury hotels and first class airlines rather than other boutiques and competitors. “We need the service to complete the experience,” Erica says. “It’s not just the merchandise.”

This is why for the past year RCC has invested a lot in training. This is why RCC chair and CEO Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco wants Donnie to build a very strong infrastructure within the company, complemented by a driven and empowered “software”—the people.

“It’s the hard infrastructure and also the soft. The soft is the people, because even with technology, it’s all going to depend on the people. My lolo [RCC chairman emeritus Amb. Bienvenido Tantoco] always told me that we’re in it to win. We can’t do anything half-baked. We can’t do a diminished version of a vision just because of all the risks. We have to always strive for excellence, not perfection, because perfection is impossible. And you can kill your people, destroy them by going for perfection, but excellence is something that’s important. The price we seek is the loyalty of our customers and our employees. Once you have that, along with other things that are important to business, you will not only be profitable in the short run, you will be profitable on a sustainable basis,” Donnie ends.