Outlet centers are known for bargains, excess inventories and big crowds, and not so much for casting a sophisticated, stylish image and providing service.
The 40-year-old Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, however, took a step forward last spring by hiring its first fashion director, Ray Oliveira. Originally from Brazil, Oliveira started his career as a fashion stylist and costume designer in the late 1990s while living in Los Angeles. His work includes fashion shoots, music videos and TV projects. He relocated to New York City in the early 2000s, where he was signed by an agency and started working with publications, celebrities, advertising and TV.
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Among other tasks for Tanger, he’s been offering style tips and advice on scoring the latest looks at value prices, which appear on social media and on the Tanger app and website. Tanger enables customers to build a basket from multiple outlets to purchase online, receive help from virtual shoppers and has employees that collect the selected items from the outlets to ship to homes, or have them ready for a pickup, curbside.
In an interview with WWD, Oliveira discusses his mission at Tanger, how he’s communicating with consumers and working to raise the fashion profile of the outlets.
WWD: I haven’t come across many malls or outlet centers that have fashion directors. Do you think your position at Tanger is a rarity in the retail real estate world?
Oliveira: Yes, I think Tanger is a bit of an innovator on this project. Tanger’s goal is to be a style and savings leader. Shopping is so personal, and Tanger centers offer an environment that is engaging, exciting and interactive. I hope that through this collaboration, we can continue to create meaningful style experiences for guests, including personalized fashion guidance and access to the latest trends and seasonal merchandise.
WWD: Describe your responsibilities at Tanger and merchandise categories you cover.
Oliveira: I collaborate with the marketing and creative teams at Tanger, and collectively with our retail partners, define seasonal trends, creative campaign development and execution of Tanger’s content. We cover style categories for women, men and kids, and we really want to make sure we’re sharing content and styles that meet our shoppers’ diverse lifestyles. With 500-plus brands, we have something for everyone.
WWD: What are your key objectives?
Oliveira: My goal is to help Tanger shoppers maximize the great value they find at Tanger with the latest trends and practical style advice. Personal style is an expression. I want our shoppers to feel inspired and explore their personal style. Whether their day-to-day look is classic or edgy, casual or dressy, I want them to feel great in what they’re wearing. From fashion magazines to the runways, my objective is to bring Tanger shoppers access to the latest styles for less and show them ways to make them their own.
WWD: What are the most effective ways to communicate with consumers and get your fashion message across? What kinds of events, live or virtual, have been done?
Oliveira: Social media as a channel, and more specifically video as a format, provide us an immediate connection with our audience and the most exposure and shareability to spread the message. Aside from our presence online, we recently surprised a few lucky shoppers onsite with $500-plus shopping sprees and private styling sessions. We’ve launched and will be launching a few fun campaigns including a video series highlighting iconic closet essentials that shoppers can always count on, no matter the decade, as part of Tanger’s 40th anniversary, “Pink” style advice as part of “TangerPink” savings starting in October benefiting breast cancer research and we’ll release another video series in November highlighting gift giving and winter trends/styles as part of our TangerStyle Holiday campaign.
Live shopping events and flash sales through our social channels and TangerOutlets.com provide great ways to showcase merchandise in store, raise awareness of our brands and fulfill sales for shoppers not wanting to visit the destinations in person. We recently partnered with DKNY, Karl Lagerfeld and Theory to name a few.
WWD: How do you come up with recommendations on trends and inspirations?
Oliveira: As a native of Brazil, an international stylist and a costume designer, I’m constantly inspired by the world stage. At the moment, I am turning to an age-old concept: neutrals go with everything. When it comes to black, white and everything in-between, mix and match to your heart’s content. Gray, tan and even denim count. If that sounds too subdued for your personal style, choose patterns, details and textures for added interest.
WWD: Do you work with brands directly? Describe your interactions and do you scour the outlets?
Oliveira: I work directly with Tanger’s chief marketing officer and her agency collaborating with our retail partners during the seasonal TangerStyle campaigns — spring, fall, holiday. First, I compile a trend report based on what I’m seeing on the runways and in the fashion forecasts around the world. Our brand partners then send us the latest styles from their collections that fit our curated seasonal edit. This collaboration makes our seasonal campaigns even more relevant to our shoppers, as they get to see what new arrivals are available in stores before they shop — almost in real-time. I frequent the outlets, specifically Tanger’s two Long Island locations, Deer Park and Riverhead, as they’re so close to New York City. During these visits, I bring our retailers’ special collections to shoppers through live shopping and flash sales events. We also surprise our shoppers from time to time with a personal styling session and shopping sprees from their favorite designer brands. Visiting the outlets allows me to stay up-to-date on what our brand partners are doing and gives me an opportunity to interact with our shoppers, which I value greatly.
WWD: How is being a fashion director for an operator of outlet centers different from being a fashion director for a store, a magazine or a website?
Oliveira: My role as Tanger’s fashion director is unique and exciting as I get to work with so many brands, styles and shoppers. Unlike a store/brand fashion director, Tanger Outlets provides a multidimensional shopping experience for all types of shoppers, allowing me the opportunity to curate campaigns with multiple styles, trends and shoppers in mind. It’s been a fun and fulfilling challenge as I get to define looks for all style personalities.
WWD: It’s indicated online that you freelance. What are you currently involved in?
Oliveira: In addition to my role as Tanger’s fashion director, I style for various publications, celebrities, advertising and TV clients as well as seasonal campaigns for major brands.
WWD: Many people regard outlets as a place for great bargains on basics, leftovers from full-price stores or brand labels specifically produced for outlets and of inferior quality. Do you agree? Do outlets need an image overhaul?
Oliveira: Some people may have an outdated perception of what outlets offer. Many of fashion’s hottest brands have outlet locations, so the game has definitely changed. The beauty of outlet shopping is that guests can still score great basics at incredible value, but they can also discover on-trend looks and styles that allow them to update their wardrobe for the season — either with a few new accessories or a complete closet overhaul. Tanger’s retail mix of iconic labels and up-and-coming brands ensures there’s always something for everyone.
WWD: What are consumers buying at outlets these days?
Oliveira: In the wake of the pandemic, we’re seeing a real appetite for refreshed, casual wardrobes. As consumers are slowly returning to the office, many are taking on “workleisure” attire, an elevated workwear spin on athleisure. Loungewear to chic work wear is everything right now. From comfortable style to knitwear and light layers, it’s on trend, yet functional. Consumers are looking for hybrid fashions that they can wear at home, at work, and out and about. It’s much more versatile and relaxed than pre-pandemic. The rules have changed, and consumers are dressing more expressively the way that works for them. This will evolve, but for now fashion is so individual.