Interview with Kris Popovski - CEO of the suit brand Signori, company that has been attracting international clients since the day it was founded

posted March 24, 2016

Верзија на Македонски јазик е достапна на следниот линк

I talked to Kris Popovski, CEO & Co-Founder of the custom suit brand Signori, to find out more about the company that has been attracting international clients since the day it was founded. The focus of my conversation with Kris was to find out what makes Signori’s suits to be so well received by clients in a market that is as expansive as it is competitive. In previous conversations with Macedonian entrepreneurs I have always asked them to share some of the secrets of their success. This time I didn’t. If anyone wants to know what makes Kris successful, just take a look at a Signori suit and contemplate the attention to detail, the design and dedication behind its creation. It has success written all over it.

Tell us few things about yourself

I was born in Macedonia, in Resen. My parents moved to the United States when I was three and I spent 18 years there, first in Ohio and then in Florida. Growing up in the US I learned a lot by reflecting on my European and Macedonian mentality and tradition. I worked in a family-owned restaurant where I learned valuable lessons in how to manage a workplace, how to please my customers and of course how to do my best so that my business is successful. Based on these experiences I developed a clear perspective how I want to see myself.

Did you have other jobs before your venture into fine apparel?

I have had jobs in sales which developed into my passion. I had a great experience working at the UK Commonwealth Secretariat where I sold publications for two years to people from all around the world. I lived in the UK after I graduated from Staffordshire University with a Bachelor’s in business management. This was a whole another experience because people in the UK have a different mentality, different from the US. I learned how to adapt, how to find my way in a foreign country, learned the language, the culture, the manners.

How did Signori come about?

Signori is the result of my partnership with Nenad Pantovic. We have been best friends of seven years and eventually became business partners. We talked some business ideas and were drawn to the idea of making fine suits that you can’t get off the rack. Both Nenad and I have unique taste in suits and we went on to explore our creativity to give our best to the international client. I went to live in Italy for six months to immerse myself in a culture that has made some of the finest garments the world has ever known.

We understood that the market wants an elegant European look, either an English or Italian cut suit. We consulted how we want to provide customer support to our clients and we put together a process that is complete and always leaving costumers satisfied of the product and the service.

What makes your customer service unique?

We have a one hour consultation process where we try to get a feel what the client wants, the requirements about the suit, etc. Then we introduce the fabrics, the styles, we really look into the details of how the suit will be used, where, for how long.  Then we take measurements and make alterations. To have a well-rounded service, I make sure that I call my clients two or three months after their suit was tailored to make sure that they are satisfied. If there is anything wrong, if the client has gained or lost weight, we are happy to make corrections. Signori genuinely cares for its clients and this creates a bond between them and us. One of the key details that I noticed is that working face to face with people requires a higher ambience of interaction and understanding.

Starting a company is a complex process and there are many competitors on the market. What differentiates Signori from the rest?

When we were starting I thought over every aspect of the idea. The first obstacle was the thinking – sure, we will make great suits, but who is going to want to buy them? Many people are probably facing the same dilemma and hesitate. My take on it is this. You can possibly sell anything that you want as long as you put your heart and soul in it. You have to take care of your business as it were a baby. My business is something that I go to sleep with and wake up with. So we make sure that every suit is made as if we would wear it on the most important event of our lives. Many people find fascinating the attention that goes into every detail and it gives our clients a sense of pride knowing that there is only one suit in the world like this and it has been crafted just for them. There are many areas that you must consider if you want to succeed and being unique is one of them. This exclusiveness is what makes Signori stand apart and this is what keeps us going strong- the fact that we are original and we cater to a select number of people who have themselves a discerning taste in clothing.

Who are your clients and what do you do to keep them returning back to Signori?

We cater to business professionals and those who want to make an impression wherever they go. We have made suits for professional athletes such as NFL, English Primer League, European Handball League, pop-stars, Directors, CEOs, ministers and presidents. We have been twice in Italy for a number of clients there. We have been to Belgrade, Vienna, allover Macedonia, Kosovo. People come from outside Macedonia to get a suit from us. We have had clients from India, Germany and Sweden to name a few. We had a customer come from Norway to Skopje for a day just to get a suit.

What keeps customers coming back and referring us to their friends is everything that I said before plus the fact that we innovate. We continue to contemplate new ideas, to experiment, look for new fabrics. We are going to do a suit with pieces of it made of Kevlar. Besides that, we now make fine accessories like wallets and bags.

Signori has an office in Cambridge and we are about to open in Belgrade and Dubai. We have a really good feeling for the future after having produced more than 2000 suits for exceptional clients.

What made you decide to have your base in Macedonia?

We knew Macedonia will work because many textile facilities here make garments for fashion giants like Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger, to name few. We thought, why can’t we do that? We began working with experienced tailors, we gave them our designs and after a period of trial and error, we built consistency in how each suit looks and feels. We know that we have a quality workforce here. Each Signori suit says Made in Macedonia. We want to leave a footprint that great products can come out of Macedonia that have high standards and supreme quality. Macedonia is a beautiful place to start. If we can make it in Macedonia we can make it in the world.

While on the topic, I would like to acknowledge Mr. Jerry Naumoff, who is Macedonia’s Minister for Foreign Investments for helping us along the way and our excellent cooperation with our photographer Alex Yakimovski who has been with us on every photo shoot, producing amazing results.

How was your experience in adapting to Macedonia?

You have to stand up and say can you do it or not. If you have a positive attitude you can do anything. Then you need to put your energy into what you need to change to make life a lot simpler. We can all talk about how bad certain things are- that is easy to do. True entrepreneurs change their mind process and say how can I fix something, how can I adapt to the way things are and improve them; how can I better understand an environment or a group of people and accomplish great things together! If you can do that with a calm and patient outlook on life you can adapt anywhere. Like I said I lived in few different states, in the UK, in Italy, I live now in Macedonia. Everyone has different ways, even in the manner people greet each other. If you are comfortable with taking that in, adapting to it and not making it uncomfortable for everybody – making it comfortable for yourself then you see what people can do and what I can do better.

What you would advise Macedonians around the world who want to start a business in Macedonia?

There are a lot of things that need to be brought in here. If we can get really peak Macedonians that live abroad to come back here and open up their business and adapt, they can make a really big impact, especially if it is something they are manufacturing to export. We do have a very quality workforce, there is a good standard of living in the country, it is comfortable. If somebody wants to open a company, it will not be easy from the start, but you need to adapt. The opportunities are endless. Everybody wants options. Eat, drink, wear, do. Put the right effort into it, the right mentality from a foreign perspective, it should work phenomenally.

We have put together an excellent team, without them we wouldn’t be here. Everyone is so understanding and willing to learn. They are willing to work the extra hours they don’t do 9 to 5. Sometimes we work 10 hour 12 hour days. People really want to keep moving forward, they want to make sure that I am learning something. There is a lot of talent out there, but it has to be discovered. But you do have to adapt. No matter where you go you will always have to deal with certain challenges.

You recently signed a partnership with Kiril Lazarov. Tells us about that.

For those who don’t know, Kiril Lazarov is a Macedonian and European handball superstar playing for Barcelona. He came to get a suit and we were very excited that we would be making one for him. Of course, we asked him if he would be the face of Signori and he agreed. He saw what we have achieved right here in Macedonia, our international footprint, the fact that people on social media profiles put our photoshoots next to global brands like Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford… and he agreed. After few weeks we called to ask what he thinks of the suit and he said it is the best he has ever worn. We are super excited that we made a suit that works for someone who leads a very active life, goes to meetings and travels all around Europe to play with the best team in the world.

Interview by Martin Anastasovski