When Alexander Bolen was offered the job of chief executive officer at American fashion house Oscar de la Renta 10 years ago, it was an offer he almost turned down.
"Working with my wife, her family, especially in a business which I knew very little about, seemed like asking for trouble," says the former investment banker, who is married to the designer's stepdaughter, Eliza, 45.
Ten years on, it seems that the 46-year-old has no regrets about taking up the job at the brand, which is known for its glamorous evening gowns.
"Somebody who has been so successful for such a long time must know quite a bit and I decided that I wanted to learn from Oscar de la Renta," says Mr Bolen.
His wife has been with the company for 15 years and worked her way up to become its executive vice-president.
Her socialite mother, Annette de la Renta, married the designer when Eliza was 20. The Dominican-American designer has five step-children from two marriages and an adopted son.
"When I started at the company, I worked right at the bottom in various departments. As his stepdaughter, I didn't have to buy any clothes, but I still had to work hard," says Mrs Bolen, who initially had her sights on becoming an environmental lawyer.
The Bolens were in town two weeks ago to attend the Oscar de la Renta showcase at the Audi Fashion Festival. De la Renta did not attend the event due to personal reasons.
BEST MAN FOR THE JOB
Mr Bolen's appointment to chief executive officer 10 years ago came as a surprise to the fashion set, as he was a virtual unknown, having spent 14 years in finance.
However, he managed to crush his critics by expanding the brand's empire in the United States and internationally.
He was instrumental in opening the label's first boutique in 2004 on Madison Avenue in New York City. De la Renta started his eponymous label in 1965 and previously worked only on a wholesale basis with luxury stores, such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, across the United States.
When asked why it took so long to open a boutique, Mr Bolen says that prior to him, no one had tossed up the idea.
There are now eight boutiques in the United States and five internationally in Saudi Arabia, Greece, Dubai, Britain and the Dominican Republic, where de la Renta was born. Three more boutiques are due to open this year in Jeddah, Dubai and Bicester Village, an outlet mall outside of London.
Moving forward, the ambitious executive says there is more expansion to be done, especially in Asia, although he did not elaborate on his plans.
For now, the continent represents only 5 per cent of sales revenue, which Mr Bolen hopes to increase to 25 per cent within the next three to five years. There are 15 multi-label boutiques across Asia - in China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. These boutiques carry mostly the brand's wedding and evening gowns.
In Singapore, Oscar de la Renta is stocked at multi-label luxury boutiques Club 21, enVie de Pois, The Atelier Bridal and Trinity Gallery. It is also available at www.net-a-porter.com. Prices range from US$200 (S$250) for a pair of earrings to US$13,119 for a silk gown.
On why the brand decided to take part in the Audi Fashion Festival, which ended on May 18, Mr Bolen says: "People around the world know Oscar the person, but they are not certain as to what our brand is exactly about.