Tastemaker and entrepreneur Eva Galambos first opened the doors to her luxury multi-brand boutique Parlour X in 2001 in Sydney, when she began introducing major international labels to Australian consumers, from Balenciaga to Vivienne Westwood. An iconic fixture on Oxford Street in the well-heeled suburb of Paddington, Sydney, the store is located within a historic church and a major retail destination for discerning fashionistas. And this year, Parlour X is celebrating its 20th anniversar
sary. In this interview with Inside Retail, Galambos discusses the evolving luxury landscape, the ever-changing role of buyers and her plans for the business in 2022 and beyond. Tell me the story behind how and why you decided to open Parlour X. I opened Parlour X in 2001. It was just after the Sydney Olympics and I felt that Sydney needed and actually deserved a high-end, multi-brand boutique with beautiful, hand-picked collections straight from the catwalk. Back then, Australians were receiving collections six months later after their release. My mission was to change that. I had also recently returned from many years working in the UK at luxury houses such as Armani and Prada. I understood what luxury retail fashion should look like and I was determined to ensure that Parlour X would help elevate Sydney onto a global stage. How has Covid changed the way that you run Parlour X? In some ways yes, in some ways no. We have focused more on e-commerce than ever before. We were the first luxury multi-brand retailer to launch a dedicated e-commerce website in Australia, back in 2009. Since then, we have seen significant growth over the years, but this drastically accelerated over the past 18 months throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. This meant that we had to find new ways to expand our digital service offering – not merely just in our product assortment, but also in areas such as logistics, by offering efficiently timed deliveries within Sydney and also across other Australian cities. We have also had to develop new ways to connect [online] with our clients and provide the same unparalleled level of customer service that they are used to in-boutique. These changes have pushed Parlour X forward and created new opportunities for us to connect with far reaching clients across Australia and enabled us to meet their needs in new and innovative ways. How has the local luxury landscape evolved since you first launched Parlour X? When I first opened Parlour X in 2001, the luxury landscape in Australia looked very different than it does today. For one, there were very few dedicated luxury boutiques in Australia. Parlour X was the first to bring designer labels such as Balenciaga, Fendi and Vivienne Westwood to Australia, where previously these brands were only available overseas. In recent years, there has been a significant boom in the opening of designer flagship boutiques in Australia, with many international luxury labels seeing Australia as an important market. Still, the place of the luxury, multi-brand boutique evolves. At Parlour X, we are passionate about finding the latest and greatest new and exciting brands from around the world and bringing them to our clientele, who love our highly curated and carefully selected assortment which we have been refining for two decades. What are some of your favourite local and international luxury brands? On a personal level, some of my favourite international luxury brands are Junya Watanabe and Comme des Garçons – I own a proud collection of pieces from both labels and have been adding to this over the years from buying trips to Paris and elsewhere around the world. Locally, I continue to be impressed and proud of the success of Christopher Esber – which has been stocked at Parlour X for many years – and to watch him go from strength to strength both in Australia and around the world fills me with pride. What are the kinds of skills that an excellent buyer needs? There are many skills, some of which are innate, and others that can be acquired. Most importantly, a great buyer must have a keen eye and acute sense for fashion. This cannot be taught. However, the commercial side of buying can be learned. Ultimately a great ‘buy’ is about sell-throughs. So a buyer needs to be objective and infuse his/her own tastes but only to a certain point. A buyer must curate a collection that he/she knows will sell well and resonate with the business’ clientele, so the best buyers have spent many years working in retail and understanding client profiles. When I am in buying mode, I am always thinking about whether the collection will resonate with my clientele. How has the role of buying evolved in recent years, particularly since Covid hit? The role of buying is constantly evolving with or without Covid-19. Being adaptive and agile is part of the job. The most challenging aspect is probably social media and the expectation of immediacy. Many clients don’t realise that we are actually buying six months in advance. So while the brands are drowning social media feeds with new collections from the runway and on influencers, by the time these designs arrive, they may no longer be desirable. It is a very challenging predicament and I have to be very discerning about what is a fad or micro-trend, and what has longevity. Overall, you just need to adhere to some guiding principles around creativity and craftsmanship, while simultaneously recognising the new trends within the industry at large. I’ve noticed recently that more international luxury brands are coming to Australia. What do you think is so attractive about our market to these brands? You are correct – it seems that in recent years there have been more and more international brands opening stores in Australia than ever before. There are many reasons for this – the Australian market continues to demonstrate a growing appetite for luxury products over the past few years, thanks to globalisation and a more internationally-conscious mindset, Australian consumers are more aware than ever before of the trends and brands which are popular from around the world. Our geographic proximity in the Asia Pacific region is another reason, with a lot of affluent travellers in the region visiting Australia and accounting for a significant portion of retail spend, particularly for luxury brands. What are your plans for Parlour X in 2022? Next year is going to be huge for Parlour X. We are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger, bigger and more focused than ever before. After two decades in business, we have a crystal clear vision of who we are and what we stand for as a business. We have an incredible cohort of loyal clients who shop at Parlour X season after season, year after year. In 2022, we are excited to expand our brand portfolio and welcome some incredible, emerging fashion labels which will appeal to clients existing and new, and continue to focus on working closely with our brands to develop exclusive capsule collections and styles only available at Parlour X to give our clients something they can’t acquire anywhere else. We are also working on a number of exciting initiatives to give back to the Australian fashion industry, such as mentoring programmes for First Nations and emerging designers to help them achieve commercial success and grow their brands so that our industry can continue to flourish with diversity among our designers.