Stylist Turned Fashion Entrepreneur: Q&A With Serena Forlino, Founder of Bohology

Bohology is a hidden gem in the CBD bringing you specially curated selection of bags, shoes, jewelry, dresses and many more for women and men!

Shopping at Bohology is not just about buying a product, it’s an experience, Serena makes sure of this! Get personal with the story behind every piece and to know more about Italian tradition and materials while you discover a side of yourself you never knew you had.

LadyBoss spoke to stylist turned boutique owner, Serena, founder of Bohology to find out what made her move from Italy to Singapore and why do so many of her clients love shopping at Bohology.

“Give them what they never knew they wanted” – Diana Vreeland

Q: Tell us about your business, how long you’ve been doing it, and who your customers are?

A: My business was built around my penchant for unique, different products so I started travelling to amass hand-crafted pieces and exclusive designs for my clients. I see myself as a treasure hunter, personally curating clothing, and accessories from village artisans in Italy as well as top Italian designers.

Bohology began with private events and one year ago I decided to set up the boutique in a traditional shophouse in the historic heart of Chinatown: it’s a cosy space for people to feel at home, interact at ease and share stories. The shop is not about just buying a product, it’s an experience: it’s getting to know the story behind every piece or to know more about Italian tradition and materials which I am so passionate to share about.

My customers are people who dare to be different and prefer to be seen wearing something that is unique, they enjoy having a great time at the boutique talking about life and tasting great Italian food and wine, at any time of the day they wish to. I serve authentic Italian food from the No Menu restaurant which is a street away, the restaurant is run by my parents.

BTS serena bohologyQ: What were you doing before entrepreneurship?

A: I was a stylist turned fashion designer in Milan, I thoroughly enjoyed my immersion in Italy’s fashion industry for over ten years. My family has lived in Singapore for 16 years, I visited them during my holidays quite regularly so I fell in love with Asia and Singapore. I loved it so much that I decided to move here! Living in this part of the world has given me lots of inspiration, I learned to wear new colours that I have never tried before when I used to live in Italy. I also found myself fascinated by the local traditions and culture. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so it seemed like a natural step to set up my own boutique and to share my favourite finds.

 Q: In terms of sales and marketing, how do you reach your customers, and what works?

A: People trust recommendations from those close to them and word of mouth is the best marketing strategy for me. Till today, I have not spent any money on advertising. My clients love the experience of shopping at Bohology so they always love to tell their friends about it. I like that Bohology is a hidden gem that people like to share with their closest and dearest.

Don’t stop at the first obstacles: in the Chinese language ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’ are the same character: every obstacle can also become an opportunity, we should try to create a positive mindset for ourselves!


 

Q: Where do you see the future of your business?

A: I would love to translate the intimate sphere of connection that exists in my boutique to the online world. I have recently launched my website www.bohology.com and I’m always seeking ways to enhance the online experience, to create content that is more interactive and to provide personalised services for customers.

Q: Tell us about your Number 1 business challenge?

A: Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. It is very important especially today to learn how to adapt our business to the quick changing times and be always aware of world current affairs, because this has quick and continuous consequences in what people want from us and from the products we sell.

Q: Many women encounter discrimination in the workplace, how would you advise them to manage this?

A: First, I would like to say that discrimination sometimes might just be a perception. I believe that when you are more confident in yourself, you won’t see discrimination as an issue. We don’t have to worry about what others think if we put in our 100% in whatever we set out to do, be it in personal or career aspects. It is important to set goals, work hard to achieve them and not to give up in times of hardships. Don’t stop at the first obstacles: in the Chinese language ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’ are the same character: every obstacle can also become an opportunity, we should try to create a positive mindset for ourselves!

Q: Do you have any advice to give aspiring women entrepreneurs?

A: Create a business around your passion and envision how it will be great and change the lives of other people, right from the start. Surround yourself with those who believe in your vision as much as you do: if you truly believe in it, your passion, persistence, and hard work will bring you success! Just be patient.

Q: Could you share with us your experience on raising funds for your business?

A: Another Chinese proverb I love is this: “a long journey begins with a small step”. My business started very small and I invested what little money I had to buy my first pieces from the Italian runway. Today it has grown to include emerging designers and undiscovered artisans. We have also set up a website for customers who want the convenience of online shopping. Even though it is eCommerce, I want to make the experience as personal as if you were in my boutique.

If you’re driven by passion, you can launch a business with very little capital. We are so blessed to be in Singapore and I truly believe this is the best city in the world to start a business and where the government is actively encouraging entrepreneurship and helping them to venture overseas too.

Q: Who are some of the people that you must thank for your success?

I thank my whole family for their unconditional love and support. My mom is the epitome of the warmth of Italian hospitality. She makes everyone feel so loved and welcomed at the restaurant, you can feel this from all of the team members at No Menu restaurant. She’s also the photographer behind our website – it is a skill she picked up to help me with the photoshoots! Of course, there are the friends turned mentors, who helped me in showing me shortcuts to success, sharing their experience in how to solve problems and pointing me in the right direction when it comes to planning.

Bohology Team

Q: How do you cope with stress?

A: I go shopping of course! No kidding, “personal retail therapy” is what people experience at my boutique. I enjoy the process of selecting the most unique and beautiful pieces I can find from village artisans and the fashion scene.

When I match a client with a piece that is aligned with their inner essence, I feel a sense of fulfilment and it genuinely touches my heart to see them happy.

Q: Do tell us more about one of your favourite designers, though I know there are so many to choose from!

A: Leplas is the first 3D print bag made in Italy by Alessia D’Oronzo – that girl is pure genius. She experiments using liquid rubber to create sensational 3D effects that look and feel real when we touch them: lace, woven baskets, studs, and glitter. Fun fact – her family owns a rubber factory, I love that she uses rubber material to create something that is so unique! The bags are full of character, just like her. And they are waterproof so it’s perfect for the hot, humid and often rainy Singapore.

Bohology Bags

Q: Finally, please share with us a favourite quote that keeps you inspired:

A: “Give them what they never knew they wanted” – Diana Vreeland

Written By

Co-founder and Business Development Director of LadyBoss, Melissa is a multi-hyphenate. Her other role is at BiTS (a business intelligence tech startup in Singapore) as their chief marketer and consults for various other startups. She dreams of saving the world. When she's not working, you'll find her soaking up the sun at the beach or enjoying a strong cocktail at a fancy bar! Connect with her on LinkedIn:

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