The model turned footwear entrepreneur explains how used knowledge gained on the catwalk to build his brand.
“I don’t think you have to be an Ivy League graduate, just a risk-taker,” says Armando Cabral as he considers his leap from international model to creator of an eponymous men’s footwear label. But as his daily 5:00 a.m. wake-up will attest, the path to successful entrepreneurship still asks much of those who take it. “It requires a lot of persistence, perseverance and hard work,” he concedes.
Born in the tiny West African country of Guinea-Bissau and raised in Portugal, Armando was first taken to a runway class when he was 17. (Good looks run in the family: His brother, Fernando, is also a well-known face on the modeling circuit.) By 2006, Armando and his gleaming bone structure had hit the big time, walking the catwalks for Louis Vuitton, Dior Homme and Thierry Mugler. Each interaction with a major brand was a new opportunity to study the industry up close, providing pearls of business wisdom that he stored away for later use. “I learned a lot while working with these fashion houses,” he remembers. “I was always attentive and keen to learn about their business.”
Eventually, the glitz and glamour of fashion shows wore thin. Armando—who studied business in London before his modeling career took off—briefly toyed with finance during an eight-month stint at a small, private wealth management firm. “Five months in, I realized it wasn’t for me,” he admits. “Soon after, modeling picked up again and I decided to earn the capital necessary to start the Armando Cabral brand.”