The power of Puma
Yassine Saidi, Global Senior Head of Lifestyle at Puma, is the man connnecting undergroud urban brands to the mass market. He talks to us on his quest for UAE talent.
Esquire: Is this your first time in Dubai?
Yassine Saidi: Yes, I just got here this morning.
ESQ: Do you have any expectations?
Yassine Saidi: No, I just know it from the outside and I am very impressed already. I travel the world with my job yet I’ve never been to the Middle East, so I was very excited to come here.
ESQ: The urban culture here is very different to London and New York. Is that evident in purchasing trends over here?
Yassine Saidi: I actually met my first people from Dubai in New York. I met Hussain [Moloobhoy] from Sole DXB. He was in New York and messaged me on Instagram, so we met up for breakfast at the Mercer Kitchen in SoHo. We chatted for two hours and he told me all about Sole DXB and what was going on in the region. That’s essentially why I’m here now. Dubai’s only going to get bigger and bigger, and I think it will become the HQ of urban influencers in the winter.
ESQ: Is that how the collaboration with Sole DXB came about?
Yassine Saidi: Yes, pretty much. We discussed it in June and now I’m here.
ESQ: The power of Instagram.
Yassine Saidi: I know, right?
ESQ: You give talks about the influence of urban culture on fashion, can you give us some insights?
Yassine Saidi: I talk about my own experience. My parents are from Morocco and they moved to France to seek a better life for their kids. We grew up in a very poor area, so I was made to do a lot of sport to keep me out of trouble. Sport was my starting point in fashion. Skateboarding, basketball, surfing…each sport had specific codes. The way you dressed, specific music you listened to, people you hung out with, every sport has its own fashion. Every sport has its own culture.
ESQ: Totally. So how does this ethos of sport and fashion translate in practise at Puma?
Yassine Saidi: Puma was the first sports house to collaborate with a fashion brand. I think it was in 1998 when they collaborated with Jil Sander and then with Alexander McQueen in 2015. Puma created a completely new business model that didn’t exist at that time. Now everyone’s collaborating.
Puma’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection
ESQ: Where did the idea of Puma Select come from?
Yassine Saidi: I started at Puma in a global sales job. It was good for my career but not for my passion. I was excited by the potential of the brand, so I came up with a plan of how to reconnect with influencers and culturally relevant consumers. I presented a plan and it got the green light. At first I had to use all my contacts and I’d ask people if they wanted to collaborate and they’d say no. Now my phone is ringing every day with people who want to work with us.
ESQ: How do you shape each collaboration, in terms of style?
Yassine Saidi: I let them take the lead because I want to work with them for their creative direction and their vision. From our side, we have to inject a sports DNA and aesthetic of technology and innovation, and they create a theme. It’s an eight-month creation process before it gets into production.
ESQ: How do you find these people to collaborate?
Yassine Saidi: I look for up-and-coming designers. Why? Because they have a strong drive to succeed, are extremely creative and usually extremely good at social media. I let them drive the marketing, because it is more organic than having the big Puma corporation talking about it.
ESQ: That’s brave; Puma has a lot more visibility than an niche urban brand…
Yassine Saidi: It’s more organic that way. As a brand I think we have a responsibility to support new creative people and help them to grow.
ESQ: Like Chris Stamp?
Yassine Saidi: Exactly. When I signed Chris Stamp, everyone was like, ‘who?’. I met him almost three years ago, when he was just starting with his brand, STAMPD. Three months before we released our collaboration he won a Designer of the Year award in the US.
ESQ: What do you have coming up for 2016?
Yassine Saidi: In early February we have a new STAMPD collection coming out. We want to focus more on active wear and products that look great but that you can wear to the gym.
ESQ: Would you consider collaborating with any Middle Eastern brands?
Yassine Saidi: Yes, I am here for that as well but I don’t know who yet. I’m definitely going to do my research.
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