Ms. Novalinia Willy for Anne Fontaine: 20 Successful Years In The Business Of Elegance In Simplicity
Anne Fontaine Singapore
Ms. Novalinia Willy is donned in an immaculate white shirt that not only exudes the aura of elegance and simplicity, but also bears the history of Anne Fontaine. The company, for which she is the Asia Retail director, celebrated 20 years in the global retail business of luxury apparels and leather goods. The founder after whose name the company is called, is still very much in the family business, creating pieces which are so beautiful you will never look at a white shirt the same way again.
Herself standing as a witness to the growth of the internationally acclaimed apparel brand – now with 70 over stores worldwide and more than 300 employees– Ms. Willy shares what makes Anne Fontaine successful as a business and what aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from its likewise simple yet refined entrepreneurial journey.
From Strength To Strength: Anne Fontaine’s Journeys From Past, Present And Into The Future
The Anne Fontaine collection arrived on the island four years ago, with first shop opened at Marina Bay Sands and then Scotts Square, Orchard. Along with its venture into the Lion City came Ms. Willy, who, before this, was in Australia joined the company two years ago “I’ve been working in retail my whole life,” Ms. Willy shares, her passion for her job evidenced in her voice. Ms. Willy admits there is a lot of uncertainty globally. Instead of shrinking in the midst of these uncertainties, Anne Fontaine saw opportunities in Asia. Thus, the brand is getting ready for expansion in the region in the next five years. “Anne Fontaine will step into ecommerce and take the business to the next level, to expand globally than we already have. We have almost 80 stores around the world now. The brand is growing from strength to strength,” Ms. Willy shares.
Anne Fontaine began with a plain and simple story of childhood discovery. When young Anne’s mother gave her a dress to wear to a wedding party, the little girl found the dress so horrible that she made changes to it. When she dressed in the altered dress, it was so beautiful, her mother didn’t recognize it. Growing up, Anne was still very passionate about designing, but pursued a higher calling to care for the world’s ecosystems. She then became a marine biologist. It was during one of her trips to the Amazon when Anne, then a beautiful young lady, met her would-be husband Arl, whose family owned a production house that made white shirts. Soon after, Anne Fontaine found herself reunited with her lifelong passion – designing. She came across white shirt at her mother in laws attic, which were the family business and started her own brand from there.
Today, under Ms. Willy’s leadership, Anne Fontaine is looking at opportunities to establish the brand in more countries in Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The brand already has shops in other Asian countries–one in Taiwan, one in Hong Kong, three in Korea, and three in China with three more opening soon.
This is what gets Ms. Willy excited to jump out of her bed every day. “Working for Anne Fontaine and being placed to be in charge in Asia, you face a lot of dynamics. Every day you get up and you know that your day is going to be different from others. It’s never boring. There are a lot of things that you need to handle. It makes life interesting. It’s good to know that when you wake up in the morning you have a purpose,” she shares.
The Dynamics Of Succeeding In Retail: People Management And Product Sincerity
Ms. Willy shares that of all aspects in any business, especially in retail, finding the right people and making them embrace the company’s way of doing things is considered the greatest challenge. “Dealing with a human being is always the hardest factor. It goes for every business, especially for retail in Asia.”
So how does Ms. Willy engage her staff to do their jobs efficiently? “It’s very important when you as the head of the organization believe in yourself and believe in what you’re offering in your business. If you believe in that, then you can convince people to work for you better. This company is a very engaged company. It’s still a family business. Although we have grown quite significantly globally, we are still very engaged. Having said that you can see my CEO coming in and he and Anne calls my Store Manager by first name. The family atmosphere is there. You are treated as a human being, not a number or a name in the payroll.” Because of this, Anne Fontaine has employees who stayed with them for 20 years.
On the other end of the spectrum to being a successful retail brand is product sincerity. With Anne Fontaine’s signature white shirts, the truth is plain to see, touch, and experience: White shirts crafted with superior elegance.
In fact, this plain and honest truth in their products is a life and business principle that Ms. Willy lives by. “Honesty to yourself and to others is important. It is in your quality as a person and in the products or things that you offer that you make a good name. And, yes, respect. Respect earned is respect given,” she shares.
As a leader, Ms. Willy finds inspiration in everyday things, and in Steve Jobs.
“You can actually find inspiration in everyday life. Everything you see, every person you talk to can inspire you. The white shirt is so simple and yet it can transform to a lot of diversity,” she says. And of course, there’s Steve Jobs. “He had the ability to read what people want and transform this into the future’s products.”
A Plain And Simple Advice To Rising Entrepreneurs: Have Courage And Lots Of Energy
If it were not for the courage of a young girl to change the dress she was given, beautiful things like the Anne Fontaine collection that has changed the fashion world would not have been realized. It is from this example that Ms. Willy would advise young entrepreneurs to take courage and be ready to exert lots of energy to get their business started.
“You’ll need lots of energy and the courage to actually take that first step. You have to have enough guts to face everything that life throws to you. If you’re not ready for that, then you’re not ready to start your own business,” she says.
Ms. Willy admits that there will always be challenges and setbacks. The only way to solve these will be to have a clear mind. “Fear, it is not fear itself, you have to always keep your heads clear so you can make the correct decision. If not you won’t get your way through, to find a solution. It’s mind over matter. There’s always a solution to every problem.”
Today, Anne Fontaine established itself not only for its finest apparel, but also its heart to give back to nature. In 2011, the company created the Anne Fontaine Foundation, headquartered in New York. Their mission is to salvage the Brazilian rainforest. From bare, some parts of the rainforest are now very green and teeming with life.
With this in mind, Ms. Willy advises that entrepreneurship isn’t just about making money. “It is about doing what you love to do, it is about giving back. There’s always a good balance,” she concludes
Anne Fontaine6 Scotts Road Scotts Square #01-01/02 Singapore 228209 Tel: 66361954 Website: www.annefontaine.com 2 Bayfront Avenue L1-25 Bay Level 1 TheShoppes At Marina Bay Sands Singapore 018972