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Octavio Quintana: “If you’re honest with yourself and with everyone else, you’ll be successful in life”

The fashion industry needs to continue doing what it’s doing now — being very inclusive. All the changes we see: different shades of beige/nude, different models, plus-size models. It’s important to grow into the market for non-gendered products. Octavio Quintana is the Vice President of Leonisa. Arriving in the U.S., 30 years ago, he was part of […]


The fashion industry needs to continue doing what it’s doing now — being very inclusive. All the changes we see: different shades of beige/nude, different models, plus-size models. It’s important to grow into the market for non-gendered products.


Octavio Quintana is the Vice President of Leonisa. Arriving in the U.S., 30 years ago, he was part of a very small group of international students studying in Atlanta. While there, he quickly became friends with the family that owns Leonisa. With the trust of the Leonisa team, Quintana was brought on to run the brand in the United States and continue to help the company flourish and ensure every customer feels confident and complete from the inside out.


Thank you so much for joining us Octavio! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I first arrived in the US 30 years ago, I met one of the owners of the company and we became very good friends. (We still are to this day!) At that time, there were only about 20 Latinos attending college in Atlanta. They were all from different countries in Latin America and we would all get together on weekends. The owners of Leonisa and I are all from Colombia, but we met at one of these meetups while studying in Atlanta. 15 years later, the family decided to open their first distribution center here. Since I’d been friends with the owners for so long, they wanted me to join their team. They were looking for somebody they could trust to bring Leonisa to the US. It’s amazing how everything happens for a reason.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

This is something I always share with people because it shows how much we’ve grown in the US and how we’ve broken the barriers of being a Colombian company in the American market. The first time I exhibited in the first Curve Trade Show in Las Vegas, I met buyers from Chantal, Wacoal — all the best brands in the world. Nobody knew who we were. I started looking around to see what I could offer people that they didn’t have. I realized that nobody has the shapewear products like ours, so I put them right in front of the garment rack. A few minutes later, people started passing through and touching the products. They were very impressed at the products’ quality. When they asked about the prices, they were more impressed because they couldn’t believe how competitive the prices were for the quality of the products. Nobody in the market had something like that. Shapewear ended up helping us break into the American market. That made us who we are today.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first mistake is that I thought I was going to be selling push-up bras. Leonisa’s share of the push-up bras market is huge in Colombia. I thought I would be able to sell the same percentage of push-up bras in the Americas as we did in Colombia. Directions to do this were passed down to me from our headquarters, but I soon learned that was a mistake. I realized that bras weren’t going to be our business here — it was shapewear, because nobody in the US market has the shapewear we have. Because we’re vertically-integrated, that sets us apart from everyone else in the industry and allows us to create quality garments at accessible price points.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The first thing that makes our company stand out is that it’s a family-owned company. Secondly, it’s a vertically-integrated company. Third, it’s been in business for 63 years and we’re in more than 10 countries around the world.

Throughout the years, I’ve met different people from everywhere. I’ve been to different countries and different trade shows in Paris, in New York, in Vegas, and many more. When I show our products to buyers from Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Amazon, and other big retailers, they’re always impressed with what we have to say about our products. When we show our products, they speak for themselves. The buyers see the different compression levels, the technology, the high-end quality in our fabrics…and they can’t believe how good the prices are. Everyone wants to buy one. When people are looking at the product and they’re engaged in what you’re telling them, and they’re so eager to say, “Yes, I want that product in my store and in my company.” That’s the most rewarding thing to me.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The first tip that I recommend to my colleagues in this industry is that you always have to be true to yourself. You have to be honest in what you’re doing in your life and your job. The most important thing is to work for a company whose products you believe in.. If you don’t believe in the products, quit and go to another company! If you believe in the product, you’ll be successful, and it will help you grow. Your honesty is what will sell the product to the final customer.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Working for this company, and being able to feel appreciated in the company as I am — the way the owners treat me allows me to encourage my team to also be successful and to help them to grow. Also, we’re constantly improving technology, using new techniques to create new products, with the help of engagement from customers. I always hear the feedback from the consumers and pass that along to the design team in Colombia. That helps them come up with a great product that the consumers can feel good about buying. The customers give us thanks because we’re helping them feel better about themselves. Some people have back problems, some are looking for compression and contouring and different benefits — and we give them those benefits. We bring goodness to the world by giving people what they need.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you’re honest with yourself and with everyone else, you’ll be successful in life.”

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

In the last few years and in the coming few years, we are evolving into an industry that is inclusive –we’re finally see plus-size models and there’s a new trend of genderless fashion. Non-gendered apparel is growing a lot. 33% of Generation Z shoppers identify as agender and shop accordingly.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be open.
  2. Get out, see what customers are looking for, and create with them in mind.
  3. Be honest.
  4. Be able to act fast.
  5. Think globally, not just locally.

When we first opened the company in the US, the company wanted us to continue with the same business strategies they had in Latin America. We started out that way but learned that the American market was completely different. My biggest obstacle in the beginning was helping our headquarters understand that. It was hard because we were in a new market and I was asking to change the whole company, even though they had found success in Latin America by doing what they’d been doing. But as soon as they understood that the markets were different, everything was very easy. Those changes are why we were able to be where we are today.

To succeed, we needed to be open and act fast. If a consumer tells you they need a certain product, there are a lot of companies that hear the same thing, so you need to be the first one to act on it.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

The fashion industry needs to continue doing what it’s doing now — being very inclusive. All the changes we see: different shades of beige/nude, different models, plus-size models. It’s important to grow into the market for non-gendered products.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve been a leader since I was little so I know that, if I wanted to start a movement and had the time to do it, I’m sure I’d be able to accomplish whatever I wanted to. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time! But I think that my movement would be — I would like to keep giving customers what they’re looking for, both in shapewear and intimate apparel, even non-gendered intimate apparel. I would want to make everyone happy.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/leonisa-usa

Instagram: @leonisa

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeonisaSiesmujerlatina/

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