Adriana Lerner Adelson is the woman friends and acquaintances always stop to ask where she got a certain unique piece of jewelry or beautiful article of clothing she’s wearing. This Brazilian-turned-Miami dweller spent much of her international career in executive positions, which allowed her to travel extensively and experience different cultures. During her global career, she developed an eye for exotic and extraordinary pieces; it’s no surprise she developed a passion for finding the undiscovered.
Adelson’s final corporate role was as a high-powered senior vice president of strategy at the French multinational corporation Schneider Electric, “a global specialist in energy management and automation with operations in more than 100 countries.” According to the executive, “even though I enjoyed the rush of developing corporate businesses on a global scale, I decided to leave it all behind.”
Please tell us about your initial inspiration when creating your business.
When I travel, one of the things I most enjoy is going to remote locations and purchasing items from local places. Every time I do this, people compliment me and ask where I bought a specific piece. I wanted to share the experiences from these small villages I visit.
When I was developing my business strategy, I thought about how I could go about sourcing amazing things. I also wanted to twist what the artisans do to make their goods more commercial while not diminishing the actual handicraft and traditions.
Using that passion to fuel the creation of your luxurious cashmere scarves, do you feel crafting in places like Nepal makes them that much more beautiful?
We are committed to distributing high-quality, native textile products to support fair trade communities in developing countries. Arrivals Gate’s initial focus was creating cashmere shawls from Kathmandu, Nepal, handcrafted using centuries-old traditional techniques and local raw materials.
On a personal note, I’m neurotically against slave labor, and I have the chance to monitor the factory to make sure there is not slave labor in any aspect of operation. If you are a woman working in the factory and have children, your kids must be enrolled in school. Another condition I requested when choosing this particular factory was that workers must also have health care, which is nonexistent in Nepal.
As we state on Arrivals Gate’s website, when a major earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015, our mission became even more important. Besides being threatened by unfair competition elsewhere in the world, the country was now facing severe economic and logistical challenges due to the tragedy. Preserving the cultural legacy and the income of the hundreds of families supported by the cashmere factory throughout that difficult period became a priority for us, and our partnership continues to grow stronger.
Today, we continue to prioritize working with the factory in Kathmandu, but my goal is to stretch even broader. How can I continue to transform my love of buying unique things into a business, knowing that I can transform lives?
Besides Nepal, what strides have you made to source locally or via fair trade while bringing your scarves to the marketplace?
Even though our labels, packaging and other supplies could be made in China for a fraction of the cost, I source from local businesses in Florida, Haiti and New York. When a person comes to my showroom in Miami, he or she will understand that I try to keep my costs extremely low. The biggest expense is to purchase the actual cashmere that the factory sources to create the scarves. I want to make something extremely luxurious for more people around the world.
Can you share your experiences at New York Fashion Week this year, and what your plans are for your next collection?
This September, I participated in a collective Fashion Week sales event with other Brazilian designers. For Fashion Week last February (2017), we (the collective designers at Flying Solo, recently featured in The New York Times), rented a vintage car garage that used to be occupied by Kenneth Cole. It was a very cool space to debut Arrivals Gate in New York! The shawls on the runway are the same as those in the art gallery exhibitions where I show all around the world. The product is comfortable in both — they are wearable art.
I don’t do collections, as everything I do is very sustainable. Since I’m so connected to the factory, I’m able to create a new color every month. There is a lot of customization and little waste. That is the difference between what I do and a big store, or other designers. I probably have 70 different shawls that people have started collecting.
Everybody helps — that’s the new model of what I’m doing. I joined a designer collective to not pollute the market; I don’t want to go mainstream or out of fashion. Arrivals Gate shawls are not trendy fashion pieces of the moment. It’s not the way it looks, although they are gorgeous. It’s that the scarves are warm; it’s the touch; it’s how soft they are and how people feel in the scarves.
Do you have anything more to share about the Arrivals Gate brand?
My biggest advantage is the touch. In my showroom and in galleries where I sell around the world, I bring the raw material of the scarves. People can feel the quality and softness of the cashmere in this form and, of course, on the finished product.
Since we are Arrivals Gate with a global travel-themed brand, I refer to my clients as frequent fliers. Once someone purchases a scarf — I joke that they are now repeat collectors — they receive a boarding pass to help spread the word about their new Arrivals Gate addiction. Our social media accounts include many happy collectors sporting their wearable art around the world!
What brand can say it’s both cozy and for snuggling, while being luxurious and promoting fair trade practices? Arrivals Gate is a class act, and we are proud to share our story of passion for the exotic with a desire to make the world a better place.