Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Sandy Sholl, co-founder and chairman of luxury distributor MadaLuxe Group and managing partner of SLS Journey, discusses the sustainability driver luxury is getting right and her company’s new investment arm.
Name: Sandy Sholl
Title: co-founder and executive chairman
Company: MadaLuxe Group
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Luxury is the industry that apparel companies should look to in order to learn how to be more strategic and scientific about the supply chain. One thing I would note is that the whole resale supply chain is working very well and having a significant positive impact on sustainability. What apparel can learn from that is that every company should do its part to make this world a better place and have a resale channel on its platform that gives customers a way to sustainably extend the life of products.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
Concierge-level, VIP service is very important to me. I especially like using personal stylists who get to know me and make recommendations based on my true personality and style. In fact, I recently invested in an AI company called Psykhe that combines AI and psychology to provide shoppers with personal recommendations that are curated just for them. To me, that kind of personalization truly differentiates the shopping experience. It’s the future of shopping because people are tired of having to navigate too many selections.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
I’m loyal to those that offer the best, most innovative ideas in terms of product, quality and, most importantly, a personalized customer service experience.
What’s your typical uniform?
Pre-Covid, when I was going to the MadaLuxe Group offices, I would dress every weekday as if I were going to an event, but in a way that was appropriate for a business environment. The first style is more avant-garde but applicable to the luxury fashion business environment; the second is more classic. On weekends before the pandemic, my go-to was jeans and a white T-shirt with high heels and great accessories.
Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve dressed mostly the same way during weekdays—a nice blouse or knit top, often paired with straight-legged leggings—but because I’m often conducting business over Zoom, I focus on the waist up. On the weekends now, I’m wearing athleisure and fashion sneakers most of the time.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Who’s your style icon?
Rihanna and Nicole Kidman. Rihanna always looks unique and gorgeous, and she’s created these extremely inclusive fashion and beauty brands that are accessible to so many women whose needs weren’t being met in the market. I originally created MadaLuxe with that same idea—I wanted to make luxury more accessible to more people. And Kidman makes every look she wears her own. She’s taken some well-considered and stunning risks over the years.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
We strategically chose to keep our entire staff and to keep them all at their pre-pandemic salaries. That decision, to keep our strong, trusted team in place, allowed us to not only keep our corporate momentum going, but to accelerate it.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Everybody is passionate about what we do and we have great retention and camaraderie. We actually all refer to each other affectionately as “MadaLuxens” and we’re very proud to work together as a team.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
It’s all about the people, about empathy. We donated millions of protective masks to major organizations such as Northwestern, Mount Sinai and UCLA at the beginning of the pandemic, when it was very difficult for organizations to source PPE.
Within our own organization, we were incredibly proactive and immediately closed our offices and went to a remote work environment. Over time, we gave employees the option to go into the office if they felt safe, and we made sure we provided the safest possible environment. We reorganized our offices, set up best practices and provided all the necessary protective equipment to employees.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Uniqueness, customer service and, of course, environmental and social responsibility. Everyone needs to be doing their part to make the world a better place.
What keeps you up at night?
The thought of losing our people.
What makes you most optimistic?
Humanity. I believe people are going to rally and that they all want to come alive again. When people want to really live, they celebrate life with fashion. Once the pandemic is over, people will want to celebrate life and a new-found sense of freedom even more, and that will include expressing themselves through fashion.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:
We just launched an investment arm called SLS Journey that focuses on companies with powerful and innovative technologies that have the ability to profoundly change their industries. We want to stay true to anything luxury through our investments, but we see health and wellness as part of luxury, as well as revolutionary technologies like Psykhe.
We see a tremendous opportunity to ensure that high potential startups have the resources and guidance they need to grow and succeed. We are able to bring a great deal of value to founders and help them scale their businesses efficiently. We love cultural movements, and although this is one of the most disruptive times in history, it is also one of the most creative times. MadaLuxe has the ability to come up with the funding that promising startups need and to serve as both a strategic partner and an incubator in the luxury space.