Hong Kong men's fashion designer Narcisa Pheres talks expansion, Asia, and her big career switch

Romanian-born Pheres went from trading in jewellery and art in Japan to launching an eponymous clothing brand, moving to Hong Kong and now moving into womenswear and online retailing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 6:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2015, 6:17am

Sartorially savvy gentlemen everywhere know about her eponymous bespoke Italian menswear brand. Now Pheres is diversifying into womenswear, fine jewellery, online retailing and more, as she explained in a recent interview

"I was born in Romania into a family of mixed origins. My mother has Greek heritage and my father is Romanian - and people always find it amusing to learn that I'm from Transylvania - but I have spent more than half my life in Asia, including more than 13 years in Japan.

My formal education was in arts, literature and linguistics. And I later studied fashion design in Milan at the Instituto di Moda Burgo and fashion marketing studies at Central Saint Martins in London.

I read so much about the history of art and did lots of comparative literature studies at school, but ended up as a twenty-something trader in Tokyo, dealing with vintage jewellery, rare wines and fine art.

Travelling the world and dealing in exceptional art and jewellery pieces taught me a lot and introduced me to a special clientele. Some of the collectors were fascinated by the large, centre stones in the vintage jewellery pieces I was buying for them and asked me to redesign them and make them more modern or give them a personal touch. I became passionate about it and studied to become a certified jewellery designer.

The inevitable next step seemed to be fashion - so I returned to Europe [Milan and London] to attain the proper technical skills [fashion design, fashion marketing, branding and communications]. Already with a design background from the jewellery side, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Around 2006, I launched my first collections. I did a few evening gowns and menswear. With my experience in Milan, London and Tokyo, it made sense to do men's fashion - even though I studied mostly womenswear design. I found it fascinating to see men's fashion from a woman's point of view and pretty much this became a very strong value for the brand. I was personal designer and stylist for a lot of celebrities, and all those men would trust my sensibility and instinct and they let me design and make personal collections for them for each season.

With my experience in Milan, London and Tokyo, it made sense to do men's fashion - even though I studied mostly womenswear design. I found it fascinating to see men's fashion from a woman's point of view
Narcisa Pheres

I launched the brand in Japan - not only because Tokyo has been my home for so many years but it was the most sophisticated market at that time where consumers were aware of brand propositions and values. Five years ago, I moved to Hong Kong with my husband and our children. Asia has always been my base. I love living in Hong Kong, which I think is the centre of Asia. It took me a bit longer to establish the brand in Hong Kong. I wasn't really concentrating on the market here, but instead I was doing exhibitions and trunk shows during fashion weeks in Europe and Japan.

Most of the past five years, I've been busy travelling around the world doing Pheres trunk shows in London, Milan, Florence, Venice. I didn't concentrate on retailing or developing business locally, as my scope was to get the brand recognised globally and reach a wider audience. That's also the reason why we have launched our ready-to-wear line and the new Pheressentials online store.

I am the creative head and chief executive of Pheres and have a team of designers based all over the world. Without my tailors and team in Italy, we would be nothing. But as any designer will tell you, it's all about teamwork.

We recently launched our first womenswear capsule collection. We had been creating couture gowns over the years - for celebrities and VIPs - but this is the first time we've had a ready-to-wear line for women. Being one of the few women who design mainly men's fashion and with my background in jewellery design, I love playing with fabrics and textile designs, so the most fun I have is when deciding prints and colours for each silk collection.

I remember my biggest investment when I was studying design in Milan was two antique books with swatches and silk prints from the late 1800s until the 1950s. Every now and then, together with our silk manufacturers in Como, I restyle one of those designs and put it in the collection.

And one of our new offerings is a bespoke service for silk accessories where clients can make their own design."