Viet Nam News
Trần Thị Hoài Anh is the founder of GlobalLink, a company that has brought dozens of famous fashion brands like Celine, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Chloé, Moncler and Loewe to its multi-brand chain of concept stores called Runway. She has been named among the 500 people shaping the global fashion industry by The Business of Fashion. Thu Ngân speaks to her about her business, what she dreams of achieving, and more.
Inner Sanctum: You are now one of the most powerful people in the Vietnamese fashion industry. What attracted you to fashion in the first place?
I’ve always loved fashion, and for as long as I can remember, even at a very young age, I was interested in beautiful clothes. It wasn’t until later on in my professional career, after having done a few businesses, that the idea of selling luxury brands came to my mind when I saw so many friends of mine go overseas just to buy branded clothes. At this point, I thought to myself: why not bring those brands to Việt Nam. I took it from there to where I am today with four fashion stores in Hà Nội and HCM City.
Inner Sanctum: How were the early days when you were trying to establish yourself? How did you manage to overcome the teething troubles?
Starting any kind of business requires endurance and dedication. Setting up a fashion business is particularly challenging because it is a hyper competitive industry and also a complicated, risky and rapidly evolving one, and you might fail very quickly. Since the early days, I have been focused on building up my brand Runway to achieve sustainable growth. Ultimately, you need to figure out what you can bring to the table that no one else can. I was lucky enough to have been educated by my family since childhood to have the right perspectives and attitudes towards dealing with problems and working with others, which helped me build valuable networks and businesses.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you decide to trade with giant fashion brands instead of doing business with brands in the lower segments? How did you manage to bring the most celebrated fashion brands to Việt Nam? What did you do to convince them?
I’ve always been a lover of excellent tailoring, exquisite fabrics, creativity and superior hand finishing, things that can give clothes unmistakable elegance, utmost quality and wearability. I happened to find those qualities in the big brand names and decided to bring them to Việt Nam hoping to sell the best products to my customers. It made perfect sense to me at that moment in time to focus only on the luxury segment of the market to fully explore its potential. Lately we have expanded into affordable luxury brands that offer unique designs and high quality without the high-end price tags. In this sector, expertise in buying is the key to success.
As to how to convince the biggest brand names in the fashion industry, having the money, the knowledge and the passion for their brands is what it takes. But that is not enough; you have to impress them with your business strategy and promise of consistent growth. They don’t care how much you love their brands, they want to be sure that your clients do too.
Inner Sanctum: I am very impressed by the way you treat your customers, helping them choose stuff. Can you tell us something about that?
I love to listen to them to understand first about their personality, then their dress code, how they want to look. That way, I can help them to pick the most suitable clothes and feel confident about themselves. My key word is elegance. However they want to dress, whatever they want to buy, I always want my clients to be comfortable in the clothes I sell them and, more importantly, be as elegant as possible. Nothing can give me more satisfaction than making my customers beautiful with the clothes I sell them.
Inner Sanctum: As a woman doing business, what do you see as the biggest challenges? How can women be empowered in Việt Nam?
Running a business is not carefree, and as for me, being a mother of two sons and running a business at the same time is quite a struggle. However, over time, I have learnt how to manage my time between family and business. Women in a developing country like Việt Nam face several challenges. These challenges can be overcome by equipping them with skills and confidence so that they can focus on their personal development and happiness. Learning, reading, travelling, arming yourself with knowledge, fighting for your convictions and what you believe in are the things you have to do to turn your life around. Hard work and dedication must be your gasoline.
Inner Sanctum: What is your advice for Vietnamese women who want to develop their career but occasionally meet with difficulties?
I started this career out of love for fashion and the desire to share my favourite brands around the world in Việt Nam. But it wasn’t on a whim. I had made a list of my strengths and weaknesses before opening stores to ensure this industry was right for me. So I suggest that all those who wish to become an entrepreneur should do a self-assessment to know if running a business is right for you. In case you are in business already and occasionally face difficulties, sincerely seek help, listen and really try to improve. Because, if you don’t, the market will flush you out.
Inner Sanctum: What are your plans to develop your business?
Selling high-quality luxury clothes is not enough for me. I am very determined to make their shopping experiences better for my customers with a new online shopping platform that my team is working on. With busy work and family lives, people crave convenience. Sometimes it is just as easy to get your beautiful Lanvin dress delivered to your doorstep so you can have a bit more time to pamper yourself. Hopefully, it will be at your disposal soon.
Other than that, I recently opened an Italian restaurant in HCM City. Throughout my early 30s I had the opportunity to live in this beautiful country, which compelled me to bring a part of it to Việt Nam. I hope to inspire everyone to fully experience the joys of Italian cuisine while wearing your beautiful pieces of fashion. — VNS