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ALDO's senior vice president talks inspiration, ethical fashion and new season trends

HFM caught up with Daianara Grullon Amalfitano in Montreal

Laura Weatherburn
Style Editor
September 11, 2017
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Canadian footwear brand Aldo may have global status, but the company, founded by Albert "Aldo" Bensadoun in 1972, still retains a scaled-down family spirit – as we discover when we visit their shiny headquarters in Montreal. Aldo, the son of a shoe merchant and grandson of a cobbler, advanced the company from inception - he famously learned Italian to improve communication with suppliers in Italy; and cut out the middleman between Canadian and European manufacturers, a business mindedness that allowed him to expand the company to eventually become one of the world’s leading retailers, that today has stores in 100 countries worldwide and almost 200 million customers visiting a year.

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Mr. B, as Albert is affectionately referred to by his staff, is still very much involved with the running of the brand today, alongside his CEO son David and vice president Daianara Grullon Amalfitano. We speak to Brooklyn-born Daianara to learn more about the brand, its current collection and what to expect from the new season.

Daianara Grullon Amalfitano is the senior vice president at Aldo

What is your background and when did you join Aldo?

Before joining the ALDO Group as Vice-President of Global Footwear in February 2016, I worked at Steve Madden for 22 years. I enjoyed several years on the design team and progressed into senior brand leadership roles. I was particularly leading influencer capsule collections such as Chiara Ferragni from the The Blonde Salad as well as collections for licensed brands for Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Material Girl and Juicy Couture International. Thanks to this experience, I learnt what it takes to develop and launch brands in international markets. As a Senior Vice-President of the Aldo brand, I am now leading a large team of experienced and accomplished product managers, product developers, creative & graphic designers, marketing, brand development and global communication teams, dedicated on bringing the Aldo brand to new heights.

Can you tell us about the A/W17 collection and campaign?

This fall, one of the key trends you can expect to see is Embellishment – from bold shiny metallic finishes to sequins, rhinestones, studs and pearl accents, it's all about statement pieces. We have LUCIAA, a stunning sandal that has a handmade treatment on the heel or embroidery motifs on FIERY and KARYNE. We know our customers like to stand out and make bold choices, so we also played with slogans & empowering messages. Our fall collection features grunge punk-embellished combat and heeled lug soles boots (GLITTERATI) to iconic pump (SMILEE) and athletic footwear (OTTING).

Aldo's Luciaa metallic sandals from the AW17 collection

MORE: Win some of our top picks from The Fashion Special's Shopping List this AW17

Another key trend are second-skin, sock fit and skin-tight boot silhouettes. Styles range from above the ankle to long line silhouettes that are thigh high and extend over the knee. Standout pieces include LOVELYY and LOVEE, with a love messaging on the top band. And colour-wise, red is the must have color for this fall. At Aldo, you'll find it in sexy satin-like fabrics, over-the-knee boots like SAILORS, and our iconic STESSY pump -with a special rainbow outsole.

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Sock fit boots are another must-have for AW17

For its Fall’17 global campaign, the brand taps into the notion of community in the digital space, bringing together the #AldoCrew through a "I ❤..." concept personified by the talent - a diverse group of social influencers. To bring the vision to life, Aldo worked with renowned creative director, Donald Schneider, fashion photographer, Frederike Helwig, and stylist, Claudia Hofmann. As a consumer-centric brand, the campaign reinforces Aldo's desire to remains lockstep with women and men throughout their shopping journey, and enables consumers worldwide to connect and immerse with the brand in the most genuine, relevant ways to them.

What's the best seller in the collection?

Currently, there is the Aldo Mx. sneaker created for both women and men and it comes in a variety of colours. It can be dressed up and down so easily, for an everyday look. There is also the faux-fur collection which is on point. Silhouettes range from slides (GOTTA) to elevated mules like DORRIETY and structured bag MORAINE. Similar to the footwear category, the appliqué/patchworks & unique print is another trend that work really well right now. The nano backpack FARORE or embellished cap PIIRTO are a must, as well as the TELAWEN bag with a rich Asian inspired print which is standing out.

The Moraine handbag is a bestseller

Where do you start when designing a collection, and do you try to let one season flow into the next?

Our product development teams -composed of Line Managers, Designers, Product Managers, Engineers- are based in Montreal and are comprised of world-class creative talents, who hail from all over the world. The team travels the globe seeking out the latest in culture, trend and movements that inspire upcoming collections. The trends are being interpreted with this Aldo wink and "ce je ne sais quoi" and brought to life with mood boards, sketches and illustrations. We are then translating them into product assortments until we narrow down options and close the line with the Buyers and international franchisee partners.

Our product development teams develop new collections every two months to meet the demands by looking out for seasonal trends & increasing our ability to react to emerging movements that will appeal to our customers.

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Who is the Aldo customer?

We constantly adapt our strategy to meet the customer demand and we have been hearing from them by conducting an extensive customer-centric research over the past four years. We have learnt our customer's desire for uniqueness, newness, and proven trends & silhouettes of the season. Our customer dares to make a statement, and chooses what best reflects who they are but keeps their look unique yet appropriate. They are aged from 18 to 34 and see the world as a giant mood board.

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How are you ethical, and what would you do to push it now that sustainable fashion is becoming so important?

Ever since I joined the Aldo Group, I had the chance to witness how Mr. B's values of Love, Respect and Integrity are reflected and infused in everybody’s day to day and embodied by every team members. We are conducting business responsibly by honouring those values, which is truly inspiring. Our sustainability efforts are a reflection of the CSR priorities that were most important to our associates, stakeholders and our customers. Here are a few examples of our efforts:

● Vendors must share our commitment towards ethical sourcing and demonstrate compliance with our Vendor Code of Conduct in order to be approved for production. We also work closely with them to help improve their social and environmental performance.

● Our product development teams work together to select more sustainable top-volume materials that have positive impacts on people, the planet and our business. We’re also phasing out chemicals of high concern beyond what is required.

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● We 'ship smart' to all corners of the world using environmentally-friendly packaging, optimized loading and shipping routes, and use as little air-freight as possible to reduce transport emissions.

● Our store teams & head office employees are engaged in the ALDO Group's zero waste goal and on-site recycling.

● We're committed to climate action and reducing our store carbon footprint. Since 2013, we've already reached a 22% reduction of absolute CO2 direct emissions.

How big is the Aldo team?

Around the world, we have about 20,000 team members. The Montreal headquarters is composed of 1,200 employees and I am thrilled to be surrounded by a talented & passionate team of 90 people. I have to add that I am proud to work for a company where the role of women in the industry is top of mind. In 2016, within The Aldo Group, 67% of Aldo global workforce and 65% of management were female.

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The Telawen bag is a standout piece in the new collection

Do you work closely with Aldo Bensadoun? Does he give you creative freedom?

As the Founder of The ALDO Group and an eternal passionate, Aldo Bensadoun still likes to be involved. We usually meet him during the Collection Line Closing, so he can share his coup de coeur or tell us what he is not really convinced about. On a personal note, it's such an honor to have him around us, Mr.

B as we call him affectionately, is a true inspiration. He gives us all creative freedom and will always listen to our point of view.

Do you collaborate with fashion designers, musicians or artists – and do you have any coming up?

I am sure you remember, we worked with talented designers - JW Anderson, Preen, Patrik Ervell, Roksanda Ilincic, Ostwald Helgason to name a few through our Aldo Rise collaborations, which helped emerging and established designers realize their creative visions from head to toe. As much as we loved it, it's currently going through a makeover. We are re-thinking the program to respond our customer demand. Stay tuned!

Is there anybody you would love to work with?

So many great talents in this world! This is definitely an area we are exploring and we want this to feel right, genuine and authentic. Stay tuned!

Stessy pumps get an update for the new season

The fashion industry has obviously changed a lot in the last 45 years, since Aldo was launched, and especially more recently with the rise of social media. How difficult is it keeping up with the pace?

One of the main things that has changed is the customer. They're extremely savvy and more connected than ever, making them aware of what’s going on in the industry, but also overwhelmed with information, messaging and offers. We definitely see social platforms and influencers as great opportunities to connect with our customer in the most authentic, accessible ways. That being said, creating beautiful products isn't enough to remain competitive nowadays - it's fundamental to create experiences, surprise and delight customers. The ultimate goal being creating this genuine, special connection with them and make the #AldoCrew community inclusiveness.

Who would be your dream person to dress?

I feel our work is accomplished when I see people wearing our products or people posting an #AldoCrew moment and expressing themselves through their shoe choice. They are after all, our first ambassadors.

Who inspires you in the fashion industry? Are there any footwear designers you look to for inspiration?

Our inspiration comes from various areas: from street style, fashion runways, cultural trends such as design, music, technology, etc. and finding inspiration in unconventional places & initiatives that are part of our life. I don't want to sound too cliché, but our customer is also our first inspiration. We want to fulfill their needs, and create the products that will make them feel great, confident and daring.

What does the brand have planned next for SS18?

Are there any specific footwear trends you’re focusing on? One mantra: there are no longer any rules. Everything is mixed and anything goes as long as there is confidence. One of our key Spring story is a nod to modern day street culture: we played with bold colours, floral print, sport inspired materials & details (mesh, neoprene, velcro, knit, rubber). Another story calls out for more feminine silhouettes, playing with embellishments & treatments, webbing details and bows, glittery appliqué, etc.

We are also having a lot of fun with our Special Valentine's collection. You will see an in-house print designed in various silhouettes for both ladies & mens. But I can’t tell you more than that at the moment!

Do you have a personal favourite?

They all are unique, so it's always hard to pick just one. I have to admit I have something special for our iconic STESSY pump that we are reinventing season after season. You will be able to find it with new prints, embellishments and pastel lavender/yellow colors!

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