How Moda Operandi is Nurturing Middle Eastern Designers and Growing Homeware

Diana Bell-Heather   |   07-06-2018

Lauren Santo Domingo has shown herself to be one of the strongest personalities in the world of e-commerce, and now she is pushing the digital boundaries once again.



Lauren Santo Domingo, or LSD on her Instagram, doesn’t like to sit still. Constantly tapping on the table while energetically talking about their latest project, it seems like her mind is constantly on, especially when it comes to her online empire Moda Operandi.


Passionate and enthusiastic about the shopping platform that she co-founded in 2011 as a digital access point to shop straight from the runway, it’s hard not to be drawn in and feel equally excited about their new venture into Home. Known for curating leading and emerging brands from around the world, Moda Operandi is lending it’s expertise and knowledge of what their customers like to a whole new part of the website, and it seems like Lauren can’t wait for it to officially launch this month.


With background in luxury publishing, LSD has been part of the fashion world for many years and is constantly on the lookout for new talent. Moda has been growing it’s presence in the Middle East for years with global scouts frequently visiting the region to find Arab designers and give them an international audience on their website such as Rami Al Ali, Huseein Bazaza, All Things Mochi, Madiyha Al Sharqi, Maison Yehya, Natalie Trad, Sem Sem and Bamba. Not only do they support these designers, but they also nurture their talent in order for them to continue expanding.


A global citizen, LSD is constantly on the move and with homes from New York to Paris and London, she has developed a keen eye for interiors and admits that she felt like she was ‘cheating on fashion’ with the amount of time she has been dedicating to their new lifestyle destination. Married with two kids, she talks to us about how Moda has evolved over the years and why she think launching into Home is the next big step for designers.



What has driven you to launch a permanent Home platform on Moda Operandi?

We’ve been doing a test of Home with three capsule collections with Cabana and we put up a couple more homeware lines this week. We did so much sales, and decided that we are launching into home. Based on our intelligence from the past three collections with Cabana and what we’ve done this week, we are launching into a full blown Home section for June. We have an amazing support system around it, we have customers that are eager for it so it’s something that’s deliberate, but I think it was something we were planning on doing in 2020 or even 2019 and then we really decided it’s something we wanted to do in a meaningful way.


How do you think it will do regionally?

One of our biggest customer basis for Home are from this region and what’s fascinating is that in Hong Kong or New York, women are buying things for sets of four, and here they’re buying sets for 300. It’s incredible. It immediately resonated with this region.


How keen were you to launch this new part of the business?

I always felt that I was cheating on fashion in the last couple of years because I’ve been excited about home. I would have just as much fun playing around with glasses, plates and napkins that I was with jewellery, shoes and dresses and I felt a little like I was cheating on fashion. My mother in law has an incredible taste, very old world South American so she entertains flawlessly so it’s something I’ve been really into over the past couple of years.


Is Home the next step designers should be thinking of?

When I grew up a designer didn’t make it until they had a homeware line. Calvin Klein Home, Donna Karen Home, Armani Casa, that’s how designer planted their flag in a ground and say we are a lifestyle brand, and that was the ultimate goal of all designers. We’ve seen in the last 10 years that designer never really made that leap, so while jumping into Home for me feels really rooted in tradition, this is what they should be doing.

We have a lot of fashion designers that we’re working with that want to grow their business and we are able to say to them ‘well let’s look at the designers in the past, let’s look at your business, you’re launching into Home, you’re a lifestyle brand now’. And we can help support them in a meaningful way.

A lot of the designers that we are working with, although they may be considered to be new like Erdem, Emilia Wickstead, Proenza Schouler, a lot of them are 10 years old and this is exactly the next step for them.



Which interior brand are you loving at the moment?

Since working on the launch of home, it’s hard to pick just one. One of my favorites for glassware is Lobmeyr. We worked with them to create floral tumblers that were inspired by vintage pieces. We also worked with D’Ascoli to recreate one of my favorite mud cloth tablecloths that I use for outdoor dinner parties.


Three easy ways to spruce up a room?

Explore quirky accent pieces that can be paired with lesser items. Coming from the girl who has a Lalanne hippo bar, unconventional does not equal random. Like your closet, mix vintage with emerging brands, as well as high to low. My home is always evolving with new discoveries with this mindset.  Lastly, never underestimate a good floral arrangement. My weekly fresh flowers are one indulgence I will never give up.


What are the ingredients to a great dinner party set up?

First and foremost, don’t have too many rules. It’s a party, not elementary school. Plan your seating strategically. Break up couples, pair someone over the top next to someone shy and always have an extra seat for any additions. For décor, mix and match and play with patterns and textures. Martina’s Cabana collection is dream bohemian tablescape.  You want your table to feel put together but not uptight. Have a wild floral arrangement or fun centerpiece to tie everything together.


The most treasured possession in your home?

My hardcover books. It’s the one way that I refuse to modernize.


What does your home say about you?

Fashion and décor should delight you and your friends. My M’O: is why be boring? I would describe my home and style as ‘twisted classic’—a timeless foundation peppered with pieces that make you look (and think) twice.



While in Dubai, you have also done a collaboration with Arabian Gazelles. How did that come about?

In the US there was an announcement of Saudi women being able to drive and I think in America is was right during the Me Too movement, so when it was announced it was such big news and I think women round the globe really celebrated this, and they saw a win for women in Saudi Arabia was a win for women everywhere. And then a couple of days later someone in my office said that they just heard of this group, the first all-female super car club in the UAE and there was part of me that felt maybe they partly helped spawn this change. I learnt all about the group and it seemed so inspiring, and although it’s in different areas, super cars and super shoppers, but there was a parallel.


Tell us a little bit about your partnership with Etihad.

Etihad has a big presence in the fashion world and we support so many designers in the region so it was a natural fit. They really get service, they get luxury, and when it comes to treating a customer with a certain level of care, that’s where our values are aligned. Both Etihad and Moda support regional and emerging designers.


How have you managed to grow your relationship with designers in this region?

So much of fashion is about trust and relationships. Once we launched Sem Sem and got behind her, it’s amazing how many connections she made and sent a lot of designers to us so as much as we’re scouting, there is a connective tissue in fashion. It just happens, we really value great taste and quality and I think these designer value great service and great customers so there is just a trust factor there.


What do you think of the talent in this region?

There is so much talent coming out of here because it is really authentic. Designer from this region get glamour, evening, going out and beading and evening bags. What’s coming out of here feels so right. They appeal to international audience and it elevates our platform for having a broad range of designers, and it elevates the product the designers are putting out because suddenly they are reaching an international audience so it elevates their point of view and challenges them to designing for new women. I think we bring out the best in each other, and the fact that a lot of the designer are really from this world of high fashion, they really get the customer, the product is really good, they evolve every season.


Which regional brands are you loving at the moment?

I love L’Afshar, Nathalie Tradd is amazing and now we have Marzook that have beautiful evening clutches that you can throw over any dress. Sem Sem is amazing to work with and Zayane the Label is so fun. The design transcends the region and suddenly the can be from London, Paris and New York. It informs the collection, but they are no longer a regional designer they are an international brand. All Things Mochi is great and we have a lot of beautiful, beaded evening like Rami Ali, Hussein Bazaza and Mrs Keepa.


How has social media effected the way people shop today?

Women are more curious and are searching for authenticity, and social media is about creating a narrative and a story. We always knew that e-commerce was going to grow. There’s a shift now to shop from social media and Whatsapp with personal stylists. Comfort level has shifted much faster than I expected and to see people to not even logging into the actual website and shopping over SMS, that I think was the biggest shock to me and I find myself doing that. Women are willing to shop anywhere, but if you think about women have always been willing to shop anywhere. Whether they’re in a departments store, or boutique or Duty Free and now the fact that they are shopping from different modes of social media shouldn’t be a surprise.


Moda changed the way we shop from the runway, how the Trunk Shows evolved over the years?

The more things change and the more modern we get, it’s all informed by the past. The idea of a Trunk Show and online was so modern and people couldn’t really grasp it but if you look at the origins of the trunk shows, that’s how women were shopping in the 1900’s. Reason they were called Trunk Shows is that collections will come from Paris in a steamer trunk on steamer ship to New York, women would place their orders and they would go back to France, make them and then send them. So idea of pre ordering your clothes it’s really an old fashion tradition.



How would you describe Moda Operandi today?

What we’ve done at Moda is to give women confidence to try new things. We always sold novelty pieces, the runway look, the feathered, the embroidery and things like that but now it’s almost exaggerated, we don’t sell simple pieces. We sell ruffles, prints, patterns, ruffles with embellishment, so I think that comes from women having the confidence. That comes down to trust, we earned it from the customer and designer and they feel confident shopping with us and it’s not just in terms of that you’re item is going to be delivered as exactly what you hoped for, but trust that designers that we placing in front of them and the styles we’re promoting are things that are cool and they trust us to push the boundaries.


What would you say is one of the biggest Moda Operandi highlights?

One of our first big sales in fine jewellery was a couple of 100,000 US dollars and a woman in Singapore just clicked checkout and we sort of as a company sat around and were like ‘what do we do, how do we get this to her’? While logistically we had to figure it out, for me it was the most gratifying moment because I thought this woman trusts us with this purchase.


What is your earliest fashion memory?

My first vivid fashion memory was Kate Moss in Narciso Rodriguez at Cannes. I was awestruck.


Best piece of advice you ever received?

For entertaining, be an organized, calm, and gracious hostess. For everything else, know your audience. The biggest mistake you can make in life is to listen too much to other people. Be yourself.


What are Moda Operandi’s future plans for the Middle East?

We plan to continue embracing new talent from the region, as well as targeting our clients needs and wants.


Shop the new Home collection from this month.


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EXCLUSIVE: Moda Operandi Launches Permanent Homeware Destination