01 August 2013, 12:03
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The Sunny Creations Serpui Marie

In her quest to conquer San Paolo, Serpui Marie’s intention was to dedicate her life to natural sciences. But when she arrived in the fashion capital of South America, she chose the profession of a fashion designer. Soon handbags with the label “Serpui Marie” were sold in Europe, Japan, and the USA.

You became a successful designer and businesswoman, although you weren’t preparing yourself for either one of these careers. How did your project begin?
I studied Chemistry at the University of San Paolo, and took on design seriously only in my last years of university studies. When I realized that it wasn’t just a whim, but my calling, I quit the university. My brother and I started our company and developed a product line of women’s shoes and handbags. My brother took on the administrative responsibilities, and I, the design, production, sales and export. Of course, it is very difficult to combine all these various responsibilities; in fact, one cannot avoid problems in the beginning of any venture. Because I was very inexperienced my close relatives were pessimistic toward the choice I made. They thought that I should have not quit my university studies.

How independent is contemporary Brazilian fashion? Isn’t it dominated by the European fashion trends?
The local tendencies have very little in common with global, or even with South American fashion trends. One has to take into account the Brazilian mentality and to remember that people here are optimistic and buoyant. In spite of all the hardships, they prefer “sunny” things – bright, and not necessarily practical. That’s why our production primarily targets the Brazilian consumers. Even though we sell our products in the USA, Japan, and Europe, Brazil remains our primary market. We certainly are seeking ways to expand our geography of export, but I don’t intend to open brand boutiques at this point. My avocation is designing, not marketing. I don’t want to have a huge network of stores and to be constantly preoccupied by the problem of how to make our products more appealing to the customers so that the sale profits would exceed the store rental expenses. It’s enough for me that our production is sold by many department stores and fashion boutiques around the world.

What are the perspectives of your business development?
My responsibilities include finding new opportunities for business development. With that exact intention I visited Moscow two years ago as a member of a Brazilian government group. I was trying to weigh the perceptions of my products in the Russian market. I discovered that the Russians are not so different from the Americans, French, or even Brazilians. They, too, like to wear bright, quality things that can distinguish them from a crowd. And yet, I don’t have any plans to open a store in Russia. I don’t want to open stores anywhere at all. Japan is the exception, which only confirms the rule. My products are very successful, but I want to remain a designer.

The whole world knows the Argentine tennis player David Nalbandian. Is there an Armenian who would equally brilliantly represent Brazil?
Brazil does not have Armenians who are well known beyond its borders, however there are many doctors of Sciences, and professors of Armenian descent. There are quite a few Armenians in the fashion industry as well, particularly in the area of fashion design. In fact, many of them reside in San Paolo, since this city is definitely the fashion capital of Brazil. The most famous representative of the local Armenian community is the actress Araci Balabanian. She has worked in dozens of films and on television, and her name is familiar to all Brazilians without exception.

Is there a distinctive trait between Brazi l ian, North American, and European Armenians?
They are different from the Armenians from Argentina or Uruguay, as much as they are different from, let’s say, French Armenians. The main distinction is in mentality. Just like all Brazilians, they have a fairly easy-going attitude towards life - they literally emanate optimism. But I have to confess that I do not maintain close relationships with the Armenian community of San Paolo; I just know that it includes several thousand people.

It seems that your family lived in Brazil long enough to acquire the local way of thinking. How did it happen that your parents moved to Brazil?
My ancestors lived in what is now Turkey, and my grandfather moved to Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, he abandoned his family. He was a real adventurer. He arrived in Brazil fully confident that he could make a fortune here. Grandfather settled in Londrina. Many people from Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries arrived there at that time hoping to strike it rich. This small town was located close to a railroad station. The railroad was built by a British company, and the town got its name from it. My grandfather indeed became a very rich man. At that time my grandmother and my father moved first to Beirut, then to Marseille. Later they crossed the ocean and arrived first to San Paolo, then to Londrina. Many years later my father went back to Beirut for an old friend’s wedding, which is where he met my mother.

For a long time your family has been separated from Armenia. Have you ever considered visiting it?
No, unfortunately I have never been in Armenia. But I am thinking about visiting Armenia someday in the future. I consider myself first Armenian and then Brazilian. Armenian is my primary language – I speak Armenian to my parents and brothers. That’s why when I have a child, he will be an Armenian. And if he decides to go to Armenia and stay there, I will accept his decision and will not oppose him under any circumstances.

Yerevan Magazine, Fall, N2, 2008

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