“My intention is to make Spanish craft known outside our borders and add value to it”
Interview with María Noval-Quilez, founder and manager of SABELLAR
María Noval-Quilez, founder and manager of SABELLAR, is a journalist with an MBA in fashion companies. She has worked in marketing and communication in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle sectors for twelve years. After working with companies and brands such as Loewe, Guerlain, Dom Pérignon or Procter & Gamble and participating in succeed projects like Federica and Co., Mimoki or Real Fábrica Española, she has decided to try and create her most personal project: SABELLAR.
How did SABELLAR begin? What are the reasons that led you to launch your own brand in Belgium?
SABELLAR was born after I found out about the raw movement, a general trend (not only in Belgium) which consists in reusing natural materials, almost with no treatment, in decoration and fashion, but also in gastronomy. Also, I noticed the increasing interest in crafting and looking for unique products enriching our day-to-day. My intention was to make Spanish craft known outside our borders and add more value to it. This is the philosophy and the kind of products we have on our website.
The reason for launching our brand in Belgium is because here is where we live, and there is also a big market interested in design, decoration, new trends in fashion and similar.
How is the process of beginning a business in Brussels? What are the easiest and hardest things you have faced?
The process is quite similar than in Spain. You have to face bureaucracy, but it is true that in Brussels you have more help for small companies or businesses.
One of the biggest handicaps is maybe the languages issue. Belgium works like two different countries, with two very different languages and where people often have a very different way of thinking and behaving, so trying to reach both sides is usually complicated. Anyhow, our market is not only Belgium, but Europe, since we already knew it was a challenge. This is the reason why the web is in English, for example.
SABELLAR is an online concept fashion & deco store created in Belgium but with a Spanish origin. It is a project born from the Mediterranean lifestyle which have a story behind them. At SABELLAR you will find products from the present and the future. From the past, we have antique dresses and shirts coming directly from the rural Mallorca. We have also other treasures found in antique markets from all Europe. From the present, we have different creations from Spanish craft makers, most of them from the Balearic Islands.
Some of them, the last generations of a long tradition. Others, new creators who have bet on returning to handmade, thus creating unique objects. Handbags of palmito, espardeñas from Ibiza, pots of leather, old pictures, earrings of ceramics and much more.
What is the differentiating element of SABELLAR, meaning what may attract Belgian buyers the most?
Two key elements:
Regarding the concept, when we decided to sell craft, we were sure we did not want an excessively rustic and folkloric image. Our products are handmade under a very urban design. We believe it can be surprising and people may like it. In this sense, our identity is nothing like the traditional product that usually comes from Spain, but with dignifying products that, for its quality and design, have survived through the years and are used nowadays in a more practical way. We are focused on clients committed to consume in a responsible way. That is why all product files are written very carefully. Each of them is like a little journalistic report in which, besides having many high-quality pictures, the elaboration process is explained, as well as its origin, material and the history of the craft-maker behind it.
You have recently inaugurated a corner in a store, but your activity is mainly online. What other countries have been interested in your products?
Mostly the neighbouring countries, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom. We have had a good impact in Spain, which has really been a surprise, and also in Japan, but we still do not mail our product there.
Do you think it is important to give Spanish fashion more visibility in Belgium in order to reach its highest outcome?
Yes, visibility and mostly brand value. We have an incredible offer of quality shoes, a very creative and a powerful kids’ fashion sector, young designers… Maybe we have not been able to communicate all this value outside of Spain.
What are your goals at a short and long term? Have you thought about opening your own shop?
At the moment, opening our own store is not in our plans. Maybe we will open more corners in other shops and some pop ups with other brands with similar philosophy. Now we are focused on keeping informing about SABELLAR in all Europe and increasing our product offer.
How do you think the Official Chamber of Commerce could help in your marketing strategy in Belgium?
Basically, they are very supportive for the communication and spreading of SABELLAR to Belgian public. The platform of Spanish Fashion BeLux and the visibility during Brussels Fashions Days sound like a good start.