Your company Relaxshoe SRL is a family business. What models and volumes did you start with and what do you have now?
I started with a regular trading company. It was founded in 1976 and was then called Modenese Creatione Luca Shoe. I didn’t have our own production, we ordered and sold shoes under the Creatione Luca Shoe brand. From the very beginning it was extremely comfortable shoes. The brand quickly gained worldwide fame, we sold millions of pairs. However, over time, there was a desire to create shoes yourself, not to depend on suppliers, on their delivery time, to determine the design and quality of the product yourself. The idea of creating their own production was realized in the 1994 year. This year, for the first time, we offered our customers shoes of our own production under the Relaxshoe brand. It was a good time to start - both in economic terms and in terms of demand for comfortable shoes. It was the right decision - to enter the market with comfortable, non-heeled shoes, the demand for such shoes was really great. Now we produce annually from 1 to 1,2 million pairs of leather women's shoes.
All three of your sons work with you in the shoe business. What exactly do sons do - what areas of business does each of them oversee?
Yes, all three sons work for the company. The older Gianluca and the middle Giuseppe are engaged in production, and the younger Paolo is one of the designers and is involved in the development of the collection.
Do you personally even delve into all the production processes today, do you have anything to do with what is called? Do you trust the young generation?
Our relationship is completely built on trust, and this applies not only to members of my family. I am deeply convinced that people need to be entrusted with solving problems, giving them the opportunity to prove themselves. Only in this case is a good result achieved. If someone needs my opinion or help - I am always there and ready to help with advice or deed. My company is my life, which does not mean at all that I control every step of my sons or employees. I always tried to create a cohesive team playing together.
Are you yourself a hereditary shoe maker?
No. There were no shoe shakers before me in our family; I became the first to start working on shoes.
For many (at least in Russia), Italian shoes are associated with high-heeled shoes. Why at one time was a bet made on comfort and casual segments? Indeed, only in recent years, fashionistas from all over the world were massively carried away by shoes on a flat stroke, and earlier strict rules required women to only heels for many cases.
You see, I always believed that a woman can wear high heels only for several hours. Then she begins to have problems with her legs and - even worse - with the spine. As a child, I often heard my mother complain: “Behold, I wore stilettos in my youth, and now my back hurts so much!” I am convinced that a woman looks no less beautiful if she wears low-heeled shoes or sports shoes. A healthy person always looks better than a person with a sore back or sore legs!
Is export an important part of your business? How important is the Russian market for you?
Yes, we export a lot, almost all over the world. And - yes, we consider the Russian market to be very interesting and promising. I am sure that, despite all the difficulties, your market has a very good future. He is alive, able to perceive the new, so I can say: this is definitely our future.
What models are important for the Russian market? Next to which brands would you like to see your shoes on store shelves?
We want to supply comfortable, modern, fashionable shoes to Russia. I like famous brands like Clarks and Gabor. I'd love to see Relaxshoe shoes next to these brands. Of course, we are far from well known, but our shoes are of decent quality, and I believe that they may well stand next to each other on store shelves. Of course, big firms spend a lot of money on advertising and maintaining their image. We are much smaller and cannot afford it, but we are flexible, we produce large interesting collections with shoes for every taste. Each has its own policy ... Of course, we also often have to save money in order to offer the buyer a normal price. Therefore, we refuse large-scale advertising. But we don't skimp on good materials and use good soles. We do not buy the most expensive materials, but what we use is very good materials! We are trying to achieve the golden mean: affordable price and good quality. But at the same time, we want our shoes to be really beautiful!
How do you imagine your Russian customer?
If we are talking about age - from 30 to 70 years without any problems. Any woman will find suitable shoes for us. But there are models for 20-25-year-olds, for example, the current collection of sneakers is absolutely suitable for girls. In any case, our customer is a self-confident woman who has her own style and knows what suits her best. She is well versed in fashion. Russian women work a lot, in addition, they have both a home and an economy; they are active in all spheres of society. At the same time, they value fashion and attach great importance to their appearance. We know this and are trying to create appropriate shoes.
For many Italian manufacturers, it’s a matter of honor to produce shoes exclusively in their own factories. Where are Relaxshoe shoes made?
In this regard, we are no different from others: all Relaxshoe shoes are made in our own factory. If we were producing in Italy, the shoes would be very expensive, so many years ago we bought a factory in Bosnia, modernized it, and now it meets the highest standards. In total, the production process employs about 1 people: 000 employees are located in the head office in Italy, about 50 employees work directly in the factory, and about 450 more - in the production service sector. Of course, sometimes it happens that there are a lot of orders, and production is fully loaded. Then it happens that some one model is given to the production of a friendly factory. But these are very rare exceptions, we try to avoid such situations. As I said, we are not that big and this gives us the advantage of being flexible. We do not set ourselves the task of increasing volumes at any cost.
Who is developing the collection?
We have a design studio where 6 employees are constantly working. As I already said, my youngest son Paolo also works there. He is not a boss, he is still young and must learn from others. But he loves his job very much and, I think, that he will eventually become a good fashion designer.
The shoe business is going through hard times around the world. Many manufacturers try to cheapen shoes as much as possible and save on everything, often save on upper material, replacing genuine leather with synthetics. You only produce leather shoes. Have you ever thought to switch to synthetics and thus occupy a lower price niche?
No never! Of course, shoes must be competitive, everything is relative. We take not the most expensive leather, but exceptionally good leather. We do not develop our block or sole, but buy them from reliable, well-known manufacturers. We do not save this way. On the contrary: now we practically do not use pig leather for lining, but replace it with calfleather. Synthetics is a completely different world. After all, in addition to leather shoes, we also produce rubber boots, so I know what I'm talking about. But this is a completely different story that has nothing to do with “normal” shoes.
Where do you buy leather and how is the quality of raw materials controlled?
We make purchases of leather only in Italy, the company has employees who are engaged exclusively in the procurement of raw materials. We work only with those suppliers who provide high-quality and proper tanning of the leather, with those whom we fully trust. We have been in this business for a long time and we know everyone in the market. A good role is still played by good personal relationships. Nevertheless, every time our inspectors go to the supplier and check every batch of leather. We want to save our face - both in the Italian market and abroad.
Why do you only produce women's shoes? Are there any plans to start production of men's or children's shoes?
We have a very large and diverse collection of women's shoes, its creation is a huge work that requires time, effort, creativity. There are firms whose mission is continuous growth. We do not set ourselves such a task. We want to do our job well. In a large company, the overview is lost, the work is put on the conveyor, there is no more room for flexibility or individuality, this is a mass product. We do not want this. We specialize in women's shoes and do not want to spray. Maybe someday we will be ready to take the next step, but this is a matter for the future.
What do you mean by success? How do you see the future of your company?
I would like the Relaxshoe brand to be known as a kind of pearl of the shoe market, a standard of quality and fashion, reliability and convenience. I do not want Relaxshoe to become very large. No, I really don't want that. But I would be pleased to realize that women all over the world know Relaxshoe shoes and wear them with pleasure.
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