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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Joana De Noronha

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. I am Elliot Moss, thank you so much for joining us. My guest today I am really pleased to say is Joana De Noronha, I hope I have said that properly, Co-Founder, Partner and Commercial Director at fashion brand Borgo De Nor. Thirteen years ago Joana worked for the Belgium fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg, one of my wife’s favourites, where she says with no fashion experience and no knowledge of fashion ‘my boss to be still thought I was worth a try’. She became their international sales manager and later worked for Heidi Klein. In 2013 founded Barefoot Chic, a London fashion showroom and consultancy specialising in designer resort wear. Borgo De Nor was founded in 2016 by Joana and her partner, Carmen Borgonovo when they saw, as they call it, a gap in the market for feel good dresses that can transition from the City to the holiday. The brand reflects their eclectic upbringing, Joana’s Portugal and Rio De Janeiro, Carmen, El Salvador and Miami and each dress is named after fictional or real women including artist Lenora Carrington, writer Zelda Fitzgerald and dance pioneer Loie Fuller.
It’s really nice to have you here, hello.

Joana De Noronha
Hello. Thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
It’s an absolute pleasure. You are wearing one of your own creations?

Joana De Noronha
I am indeed.

Elliot Moss
Which of course you would do, I mean it’s a bit like if I was a fashion brand person I would also be wearing my own clothes but I don’t have that in my back catalogue yet. Tell me about this dress, as I am looking at the dress but tell me about why you created your own label and why this kind of style?

Joana De Noronha
Well I think that both Carmen, my partner and I wanted to create a label that we wanted to wear and even though Carmen and I have very different styles, we did sort of found a middle way where we both felt that we loved to wear certain kinds of prints and that we are very much the same woman in a way so we are women that are fearless, that are not scared of making a statement, of walking in to a room and being noticed and also, and most importantly we love to wear things that we feel comfortable in but still feel pretty. So I think that was the basis to this idea that was borne about two years ago and we got really excited and we… I think both our inputs and our experiences led us to where we are now.

Elliot Moss
Now for those people that don’t know although I am assuming there are some people in the know, this brand has been given the… you’ve got, you’ve got to watch out for it in 2019, this is going to be one of those under the radar that hits.

Joana De Noronha
I certainly hope so.

Elliot Moss
Melania Trump wears you apparently? Kylie Minogue wears you.

Joana De Noronha
That’s true.

Elliot Moss
And there is probably quite… so there is a lot of famous fans which must feel…

Joana De Noronha
And for me all those fans are pretty organic, this sort of happened without us knowing. They actually went and bought the brand, it wasn’t through gifting or any PR and so that’s double the compliment I suppose. I remember specifically when Melania Trump wore it, it was a Saturday and a friend of ours was watching CNN Live and captured the image because she was literally live on TV boarding a plane in Hawaii and then Carmen just sent it to me and it was such a, I mean I don’t know, we were excited obviously to have these high profile people wearing our brand and then Kylie, again she wore that dress which looked amazing on her and it was all over the news. I mean I think it was The Sun that had like a ten page coverage with her wearing the dress in every single angle so it was just really wonderful. We’ve had quite a few of these, Erin Lotto is a big fan of our brand and she also carries it in her store, there have been Marie-Chantal of Greece, I mean we have had quite a lot of people…

Elliot Moss
Very high profile.

Joana De Noronha
…posting and showing – yeah.

Elliot Moss
Now you talked about your description of the kind of woman that you want to appeal to and they are very much coming from you and Carmen’s own feelings and sense of what the world is about, fearlessness and free spiritedness and all that. It’s one thing having those ideas about what a woman should be like and it is another thing setting up a fashion brand. We can all have feelings about what women should be like or what men should be like and so on.

Joana De Noronha
Very true.

Elliot Moss
What tipped you both over into actually establishing your own business?

Joana De Noronha
Well it’s funny you mention that because we, we were, we had a meeting recently with the British Fashion Council who brought that up actually and said that we were one of the brands, one of the few brands that they knew that had done so well both from a commercial and business point of view as well as you know, creative so usually you know, you set out to launch a brand and you’ve got all these crazy ideas and you want to design and do something amazing and beautiful but you do not always have that business and commercial sense and we can’t forget that this is a business indeed and I think that that has always been present so both Carmen and I had it easier if you like could say it that way because we worked in the industry and our skills and experience sort of complimented each other so it was easy to set up and we are both very… we are self-starters, we are very, I always tell my kids, reach for the stars nothing is impossible so I think you just… we are go getters, we go and get it and so we did and I think you know, the company has been profitable from year one, it’s been an incredible, I mean everyone that has sat with us and gone through our business plan and numbers and everything has been incredibly impressed with, with how well we’ve done in so little time so knock on wood, that will keep being the case.

Elliot Moss
I am sure it will. Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper, that’s Joana De Noronha, she is the Co-Founder and Partner and Commercial Director at the fashion brand Borgo De Nor. Time for some more music right now though, it’s George Duke with aptly, Reach For It.

That was George Duke and Reach For It. I am with Joana De Noronha and she is the Co-Founder of Borgo De Nor and they are a fashion brand and they make really beautiful, powerful looking dresses of which I am lucky enough to be looking at one now, although I did go on the website before. I have such fun you know because I get to meet all these people that do all these crazy things, different things and I sort of am a dabbler in all the different worlds of business. It strikes me that fashion, I’ve interviewed a few people on this programme before, Ruth Chapman from Matches, Mary Katranzou with her own brand obviously.

Joana De Noronha
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You talked about it before, there’s this fusion when it works between creativity and commerciality. As the two of you came together, was it pretty clear which roles you would be playing?

Joana De Noronha
Pretty much yes. I think at the beginning we started pretty much working on everything together and only recently as the company has been growing and we have been hiring more people have our roles sort of become a little bit more clear because we were wearing a lot of hats at the beginning, we wanted to keep the structure lean and be you know, and really trying and do as much as we could just the two of us and then you know, slowly, slowly we started growing the team but now it is definitely very, very clear and I’ve got my team which is mostly sales and you know and ops and a little into logistics and the business side of things and then Carmen is very much in charge of the creative direction of the brand and design so she’s got you know, design and also production under her and now we are launching an e-commerce, our own e-commerce, our own online store at the end of this month, that’s something really exciting and that’s something that she’s been working on for the past few months so it’s a big project.

Elliot Moss
Now I also recall, I interviewed Nicole Farhi last year, obviously the creative directive of French Connection and she said to me when I said something about business, she said ‘Elliot I’ve already told you, I am not a business woman’. You obviously are a business woman, would Carmen say she is a business woman or is Carmen like ‘excuse me, I am only creative’?

Joana De Noronha
Yeah I think she would probably say that she’s…

Elliot Moss
There’s a glint in your eye.

Joana De Noronha
…yeah because I am imagining that conversation and if she was here she would probably say, no she’s definitely much more artistic and creative than I am.

Elliot Moss
But couldn’t do it without you?

Joana De Noronha
Funnily enough we are both Libra’s but…

Elliot Moss
Ah you are one of those are you. So tell me about the Libra’s, I never knew?

Joana De Noronha
So we are quite, we are quite similar in many things and I suppose our sensitivity and our taste and the love for aesthetics and… but, but we do, we are also very different in our, you know, and obviously those roles complement each other at work.

Elliot Moss
Now you are also a mum.

Joana De Noronha
I am also a mum.

Elliot Moss
And I don’t know if Carmen is a mum as well?

Joana De Noronha
Carmen is not a mum yet.

Elliot Moss
Is not a mum. Is it hard juggling, I mean it sounds a sort of a trite question on the level but how do you do it because there is different schools of thought especially for women who work, I think it’s a much harder gig?

Joana De Noronha
I am one of those people that the more I have to do and the more I’ve got on my plate, the more I thrive and the more I do so I actually love being busy much more than not and I also have the showroom and I am partner of… we’ve launched this agency, this showroom, multi-brand showroom so I do have sort of two jobs now much more Borgo De Nor orientated and then my two children but they are six and eight so they are at school most of the day so it’s pretty easy and straight forward. But yeah, no I love it. The more the merrier, the more the better, I am just very happy with the way my life is at the moment.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today, that’s Joana De Noronha. She will be back in a couple of minutes but first we are going to hear from one of our partners at Mishcon de Reya with some words of advice for your business.

There are absolutely loads of ways for you to enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed to hear this programme again too with Joana. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform you can enjoy the full archive but back to today’s guest, she is the Co-Founder, Partner and Commercial Director at the fashion brand Borgo De Nor and as we were hearing Joana, you would describe yourself more as the business person and if we were to talk to Carmen she would say she is the creative one. Can I just talk about the skills and your background and how it works. You’ve obviously worked in media before, you worked in the world of fashion and there was a bit about I think it was DVF, you can tell me if I am wrong.

Joana De Noronha
Right.

Elliot Moss
Where they took you on but you didn’t really have any experience.

Joana De Noronha
True.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, why did they take you on? What did they see in the younger version of you?

Joana De Noronha
You know I think that actually that was a very important moment in my life where everything sort of turned because of this one person whom I am still friends with and I admire and I get along and has taught me so much about fashion and the fashion world. She was my boss at Diane Von Furstenberg, her name is Gabriella and she, she could see outside the box I suppose and she said you know I remember this and I always say it, when she was interviewing me she said ‘well you don’t have any fashion experience’, I was working four years in a media agency so in the world of advertising, it’s like ‘you obviously don’t have any fashion experience but you are woman and fashion is not rocket science so that is something you learn pretty quickly and I am sure it won’t be a you know, a hard thing to do because you obviously like fashion’ so I think she was more interested in the fact that I spoke five languages, that I was you know, my sort of social skills and what was needed for the job which was a sales job so obviously she needed somebody with certain characteristics and I guess she thought I was a good bet.

Elliot Moss
And what made you want to go into work in the world of fashion because if we, you know, the cliché about fashion is the devil doesn’t wear Prada, you see this whole kind of world of craziness and emotion and people kind of look at it from the outside and go ‘wow it looks fun, I wouldn’t want to do it’. You had a different view of the world then?

Joana De Noronha
I did, well…

Elliot Moss
And obviously you are in it now and you are proponent and you are a business person in it so it is obviously different again?

Joana De Noronha
It’s true but at that side of fashion which is the be to be side, it’s wholesale sales, it’s not as glamorous as you may think so yes it’s definitely more glamorous than probably working in media at the time and I suppose what I wanted was something that was, it was people facing and that I could use my social and communication skills, I could meet people, I could be out there rather than being in an office and pretty much on the background so in sales, I mean I didn’t know then but I knew that marketing PR, communications, anything related to that was my you know, what I probably was naturally inclined to do and wanted to do and was good at so, so sales seemed to be the natural next step in selling fashion. Obviously it is something that I like and yeah, so I thought that that would, that could work but it was just an interview like any other, I wasn’t specifically looking for a job in fashion, I just thought yes this could be fun, I loved the brand Diane Von Furstenberg and…

Elliot Moss
Who doesn’t.

Joana De Noronha
I know. No and especially looking at the business side…

Elliot Moss
But seriously though.

Joana De Noronha
…of things you know, what she has achieved and what she’s done over the years, I mean she was an inspiration for sure and when I was living in Brazil and this was a coincidence, I actually met Diane’s husband, Egon Von Furstenberg and had lunch, I had a lunch at his house in Rio so that was quite glamorous and fun.

Elliot Moss
The funny thing is I knew absolutely nothing about fashion until I got married to my wife.

Joana De Noronha
Oh really.

Elliot Moss
And she is a fashionista so I am like suddenly I notice the DVF print and it’s a bit disconcerting. We are going to pick up on that point and I want to talk about creativity specifically with inside the Borgo De Nor brand and the prints but first we are going to have a bit more music, it’s George Benson with Moody’s Mood For Love.

That was George Benson with Moody’s Mood For Love and very nice it was too. Joana De Noronha is my Business Shaper, we have been talking about a bit of business and a bit of kind of giving it a go and getting in because someone saw something in you that was beyond experience in fashion but here we are now a few years later and you have a number of experiences in fashion, you have created your own brand. Tell me about and you said you were a good sales person but we also ascertained that selling is about really loving the thing you sell. Tell me about the inspiration for what I see now and for what the brand stands for in terms of the actual specifics of the print because obviously you’ve got to talk to that every day as you’re, as you are trying to sell it?

Joana De Noronha
Yes that’s right and I think going back to what I said about Carmen and I being you know, the same kind of woman, I think that we are also very inspired by women that are equally you know, independent and fearless and actually Carmen’s main inspiration or the brands main inspiration are surrealist artists and to name a few like Leonora Carrington which is one of the first people we looked into because there was somebody we really admired her life and achievements and her personality and how she stood out at that time amongst women in general, Leigh Miller, so Frida Kahlo, so these are just to name a few you know surrealist artists that inspired the brand and inspire our prints. So all our prints are tailored to us, they are designed by us and they are all inspired and surrealist artists and the surrealism movement and so you will find elements such as lips and hands and snakes you know, and there is always a story to be told behind our prints so our prints are intellectual, they are not just commercial and I think that’s where you see a difference between other brands that we’ve mentioned before is that, and it looks like the woman that is buying our dresses understands that and sees the nuance and it really looks into the print you know, like the orchids like this, you know, the print that I am wearing today which is an orchid print with a leopard patch, I mean there is a story to be told about each and every print of ours.

Elliot Moss
Leopards are so this season.

Joana De Noronha
So the season.

Elliot Moss
I’ve always wanted to say that by the way. But I also know joking aside that it is true.

Joana De Noronha
Actually leopard is timeless.

Elliot Moss
No it’s timeless, I was going to say.

Joana De Noronha
And that’s the beauty of leopard.

Elliot Moss
I have a friend who only wears leopard.

Joana De Noronha
I love leopard.

Elliot Moss
A woman rather than man just to…

Joana De Noronha
It goes with everything.

Elliot Moss
It kind of does.

Joana De Noronha
Oh yeah.

Elliot Moss
She is obsessed with leopard, I mean literally she has been doing that for thirty years.

Joana De Noronha
I think that one very important thing to say about our prints which we’ve heard a lot in terms of feedback is a woman that wouldn’t like you just said about your wife, a woman that wouldn’t wear a bold and bright print has found herself loving and buying our prints and our dresses and I would start as far, you know, even Carmen who usually wears and dresses quite neutrally you know in terms of greys and whites and blacks, she… if you are going to wear print, this is the print I’d like to wear and we have heard that coming from magazine editors, people in the fashion world that are usually minimalistic and like to wear neutrals, or you know, just more sort of directional…

Elliot Moss
But it sounds like…

Joana De Noronha
…fashion.

Elliot Moss
…even though it is intelligent and nuanced and also bold, it sounds like Carmen and you wouldn’t have done it any other way, even if you only sold three items, this is just what you were going to do?

Joana De Noronha
Exactly.

Elliot Moss
Is that, is that right? I sense that…

Joana De Noronha
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…in the sense that like a surrealist artist says you know what, I am doing this, this is the way I view the world.

Joana De Noronha
Yes.

Elliot Moss
This is my interpretation, if you don’t like it well I don’t really not care is the wrong word but it’s not for you?

Joana De Noronha
Yeah absolutely and luckily it seems that we are not the only ones liking it and that we’ve got quite a big follower, I mean we’ve got a great, a great, I don’t know if you’ve noticed what we’ve launched recently which is this campaign, blog campaign called Borgo Girls?

Elliot Moss
Yes I have and all these influential amazing women…

Joana De Noronha
Exactly.

Elliot Moss
…talking about something, it’s fantastic.

Joana De Noronha
So we now have these ambassadors which are amazing women that again inspire us, so going you know, to our times there’s tonnes of women out there that we want to interview and get to know because they inspire us and inspire our work and we want them to be our Borgo Girls and they are also excited to be a Borgo Girl so that’s become a sort of almost an important hashtag and something that we really want to promote and develop further.

Elliot Moss
Very good, stay with me for my final chant with Joana De Noronha and we will be playing a track from Christian McBride as well. That’s all coming up in just a moment.

That was Christian McBride with The Lady In My Life. The lady in my studio right now, how cheesy is that, is Joana De Noronha and we have been talking about Borgo De Nor and we’ve been talking about fashion. You make stuff. Before this happened you were helping other people make stuff, before that you were helping other people sell stuff but here you are now, you are officially a creator.

Joana De Noronha
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Is that a fabulous feeling?

Joana De Noronha
It’s a fabulous feeling, I mean it is incredibly fulfilling and its, it’s also like you, in a way you are leaving sort of your mark in this world, there’s something that you know, people are wearing your dresses, your clothes that’s… yeah it’s incredibly exciting and I think, I mean obviously this was a process, you know I’ve gone through many steps to get to where I am today and so has Carmen and I think it’s also having been helping other brands get there and understanding the sales and wholesale side of things now being on the creating and producing our own clothes has also helped me with my other business which is to understand you know, the, the challenges other brands have like timings for production and you know, why do you need to have orders in by a certain time? How long do you actually need to produce the, the product and then… I mean there is so many elements to it and now actually I have a three hundred and sixty view whilst before I had a hundred and eighty. So it has also enabled me to do a better job in servicing the brands that I represent at the showroom so that’s interesting.

Elliot Moss
Now making money, you mentioned earlier you know, you turned a profit in your first year. In terms of accumulating wealth as it were, in terms of kind of making it big. Is that something that you pretend you don’t think about? Is it something that is just a by-product of what you are doing? I mean the numbers have to work don’t they?

Joana De Noronha
No not at all.

Elliot Moss
But there is an opportunity here that this business could scale, massively.

Joana De Noronha
Yes. It is a business like we said before, this is a business and obviously we do want to, to do well and we want the brand to grow. We’ve got lots of ideas, we’ve got, I mean, an endless list of things that we want to do and that we are very good at, Carmen and I in bringing ideas to the table and thinking of ways of how, what’s the next step, what’s the next category we are going to launch and there is so many things because now we are looking at it as you know, it is almost like a lifestyle brand. What does the Borgo Girl do? What does she like you know, from being this incredible hostess, I mean looking at so many different things such as tableware, such as jewellery. What do you accessorise your dresses with? So I mean there is so much more to come and so much more in the pipeline. So very exciting.

Elliot Moss
Well I am looking forward to seeing all those things. I am looking forward to…

Joana De Noronha
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
…eating dinner on a Borgo table one day and maybe looking at the beautiful…

Joana De Noronha
I hope so, oh that’s something we both love.

Elliot Moss
…lamp in the corner and going ‘ah it’s a Borgo lamp’,

Joana De Noronha
Absolutely, hopefully that will be…

Elliot Moss
Good luck with it all, it’s been absolutely lovely meeting you…

Joana De Noronha
…thank you, thank you so much.

Elliot Moss
…and chatting, tell me, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Joana De Noronha
I mean I love Jazz, always have and grew up listening to music at home. I have met this incredible person which I later found out was somebody known and acclaimed in the Jazz world. I was travelling to Nantes, going to Brittany to spend a week at a friend’s house and I was sitting with my son, Konstantinos and I think I was pregnant with my second one, Sebastian and somebody just before the plane took off asked if she could sit next to us and I said ‘well sure as long as you don’t mind sitting next to a year and a half old because that’s you know, it’s a two hour flight and it might be a little… I can’t promise that he will behave’. So she was lovely and turns out she is this American Jazz singer and she’s called Stacey Kent and for those who know her, they probably know that she is also married to Jim Tomlinson who is quite well known and so I wasn’t familiar with her music but obviously that was the first thing I did as soon as I got off the plane was find out who Stacey Kent was and also found out that she was going to play at Ronnie Scott’s soon after so of course I booked tickets, went to see her and then went to say hi and she sings a lot in French, I’ve done all my schooling in French so French is like my second language and she also sings a lot of Bossa Nova tunes which I love and Tanjawi and so you know it’s all that I love, it’s the Brazilian Bossa Nova and Jazz mixed with her beautiful voice and sometimes sang in French so yeah.

Elliot Moss
And this is Les Eaux De Mars.

Joana De Noronha
Les Eaux De Mars which is the Les Eaux De Mars Antonio Carlos Jobim, I think he wrote it in the 70s and it’s been you know, sang by so many people, Elis Regina and so many other people and she’s done a beautiful interpretation of it and she sings it in French.

Elliot Moss
That was Stacey Kent with Les Eaux De Mars, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Joana De Noronha. She talked about reaching for the stars and the message that she gives to her children which is that anything is possible. She talked about the person that hired her on an instinct rather than because she had experience in the fashion business and that sense of looking outside the box and the importance of that. And she talked about loving actually creating something. All really, really good stuff. That’s it from Jazz Shapers and me, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Joana De Noronha is Co-Founder, Partner and Commercial Director at fashion brand Borgo De Nor. Thirteen years ago Joana worked for the Belgium fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg, where she says with no fashion experience and no knowledge of fashion ‘my boss to be still thought I was worth a try’. She became their international sales manager and later worked for Heidi Klein. In 2013 she founded Barefoot Chic, a London fashion showroom and consultancy specialising in designer resort wear. Borgo De Nor was founded in 2016 by Joana and her partner, Carmen Borgonovo, when they saw a gap in the market for feel good dresses that can transition from the City to the holiday. The brand reflects their eclectic upbringing, spanning Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, El Salvador and Miami and each dress is named after fictional or real women including artist Lenora Carrington, writer Zelda Fitzgerald and dance pioneer Loie Fuller.

Interview highlights

We are women that are fearless, that are not scared of making a statement, of walking into a room and being noticed.

Most importantly we love to wear things that we feel comfortable in but still feel pretty.

We are self-starters…I always tell my kids, reach for the stars, nothing is impossible.

We are go getters, we go and get it and so we did.

The more I have to do and the more I’ve got on my plate, the more I thrive.

We are very inspired by women that are equally independent and fearless.

There is always a story to be told behind our prints.

Our prints are intellectual, they are not just commercial.

Being a creator is a fabulous feeling, it is incredibly fulfilling…you are leaving your mark on this world.

We are very good at bringing ideas to the table and thinking of what’s the next step, what’s the next category we are going to launch.

We are one of the few brands that had done so well both from a commercial and business point of view as well as creative.

We can’t forget that this is a business and I think that that has always been present.

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