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Gucci retail specialist brings his expertise to Aavaran Updaipur in India

Victor Leleu is a retail specialist at Gucci, based in Paris, France. But for his most recent Nest Professional Fellowship (part of an employee volunteering program fostered by the Kering Foundation), Victor spent his days in Udaipur, India, working alongside Nest Guild business, Aavaran Udaipur.

Practicing Dabu block printing and indigo dyeing, Aavaran is committed to preserving the region’s traditional craft forms while empowering craftspeople to become greater stakeholders in the production value chain. Aaravan’s vision is for local indigenous communities to become increasingly self reliant through sustainable employment in craft-based work.

Aavaran’s goals for community impact work hand in hand with its exceptional product. The brand’s eye for detail and contemporary design breathes new life into traditional textile design techniques such as Dabu, a mud resist form of  hand block printing that Aavaran unites with the indigo dyed ‘phentiya’, a staple of Mewar Region. Aaravan’s minimal, modern aesthetic is captured across the range of garments, home furnishings, and accessories its artisans create.

By leveraging his background in designing and implementing successful retail strategies in the luxury space, Victor’s mission was to assist Aavaran in improving retail and merchandising strategies so as to better showcase and sell its textiles through a highly elevated lens. Victor’s fellowship was uniquely timed with an important stage of growth for Aavaran who is seeking to expand its operations significantly over the coming years. This required of Victor the dual task of not only making strategic recommendations, but also translating them into plans for growth.

Upon arriving in India, Victor’s primary course of action was to establish an understanding of the business’ current operating structure. Says Victor: “The first thing I did was to evaluate each department of the business to understand who does what, what the priorities are, and where are there are significant unmet opportunities.” Victor used his insights to make recommendations aimed at helping Aavaran increase efficiency of current operations. One outcome of such recommendations was the decision to outfit the Aavaran store sales team in uniforms to add a level of professionalism to their selling approach. For Aavaran’s business leader, Alka, Victor created several template materials to aid her communications and operational efficiency moving forward. These included sample emails for reaching out to prospective clients and wholesale partners, sales objectives sheets, and HR evaluation paperwork.

For Victor, cultural assimilation and relationship building were important factors in ensuring a successful working relationship with the artisans of Aavaran. Says Victor: “I insisted on following the routine of the Aavaran team: matching their office hours, eating the same lunch with them at the same time, and spending time together afterwork. By integrating myself into the culture this way, I was able to better get to know the artisans on a personal basis. This in turn, helped me to gain a deeper understanding of their daily challenges, so that I could be a better resource.”

Both Victor and the Aavaran team emerged from their fellowship experience feeling that positive change has been set in motion. Developments were made to enhance visual displays and improve communications messaging when selling a product to prospective buyers and clients. Reflects Victor: “By having conversations about deadlines and concrete objectives for structuring workflow, I was also able to help give more structure to company operations. Moreover, we managed to create a common spirit by making sure participants in the production process are aligned and communicating from start to finish.” As an example, Victor helped put the person managing Aavaran’s Instagram in communication with the brand’s store team, to ensure consistency of messaging across these different touch points.