The CEO and chief buyer of designer Manchester independent Hervia on his 30 years in fashion.
Oscar Pinto-Hervia moved to the UK from Chile in 1978. After studying art at Manchester Polytechnic he worked as a manager and buyer at local indie Aspecto, before opening Hervia in 1993, although the original store was totally destroyed in1996 by the IRA bombing. As well as reopening the shop, which he now runs with his life partner Richard Duncalf, he also opened several Vivienne Westwood franchise stores across the country, as well as the first store for the Y-3 collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas in London. The Hervia website and store, located on Spring Gardens in Manchester, stocks a range of designer brands including Comme Des Garçons and Rick Owens, through to Sibling and KTZ.
What is your approach to buying for Hervia?
Hervia strives to provide customers with the opportunity to acquire some of the world’s most established and desired designers, all the while championing emerging British talent.
The original store was destroyed by the IRA bombing of 1996. How did that affect you?
Of course this was devastating but I am a firm believer in the idea that setbacks can only make you stronger. Hervia was only a few years old when it was destroyed, and there was no chance I was going to let the bomb ruin our dream business. Rebuilding took patience, resilience and time, but we got there in the end.
You’ve worked in the industry for over 30 years. What’s been the biggest change?
Probably the rise of social media and the way this has changed how we consume fashion.
What’s your favourite part of the season?
While I love it all, I’d say seeing the final collections in the Hervia store and online is the most rewarding feeling. I love to browse the website and see the collections in all their glory, too.
Are you ever surprised by the reaction to your buys?
I am always surprised and delighted when anything sells. We once bought some T-shirts by [stylist and costumer designer] Judy Blame that I was wasn’t completely confident about selling, but a lovely Japanese lady bought them all.
How has your online store changed the business?
Hervia.com has been around for 15 years now, so there’s a real following. The online business at the beginning was small, but this has changed now as our website incorporates better features, faster loading time and the ability to be viewed on smart phones. We reach far more people now, and I only see the business improving.
Which do you prefer: store or online?
I love both equally. While online offers ease and a vast array of beautiful products, the store offers a more intimate and personal environment and experience.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I love working with the designers who create the collections. I am constantly inspired by their work and love to be able to offer them a platform to retail their products.
What’s been a career highlight so far?
When I met my hero, Yohji Yamamoto, when he opened our Y-3 store in London.
As a buyer you are surrounded by clothes all day. Do you still enjoy shopping?
Of course. Fashion is my passion so whether that’s consuming it for work or myself, I love every minute of it.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
In 2011, we opened Adidas Y-3’s first flagship store, so I love to shop there, as it makes me feel very proud. I like 10 Corso Como in Milan, but that’s mainly for the great lunch.
What’s the last fashion item you brought?
I bought in the new Rick Owens range to Hervia for spring 16, and I just had to get one of the leather bomber jackets for myself. Leather jackets are worth the investment as they never go out of style.
If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?
My Rick Owens boots – I wear them far too much.
What’s the most ridiculous purchase you’ve ever made for yourself?
I bought an Yves Saint Laurent coat in royal blue, which was beautiful but shed hair everywhere you walked, and it completely covered anyone who came into contact with it. I wore it once.
Which brand would you like to see come back that isn’t around anymore?
Katharine Hamnett. She inspired me to open my own store after I visited her building on Brompton Road (west London).
Whom do you admire most in the industry?
Rick Owens is a designer I have stayed loyal to for years – he is an incredibly talented man.
What do you do to switch off from work?
In my spare time I love to visit art galleries with my partner Richard, and walk our dog, Baba – nothing can beat a refreshing walk to clear your head when working in the busy world of fashion and retail.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I arrived in the UK as a refugee with my mother and sister – I am extremely proud of that.