Dunya Gronina, owner of Liveshowroom, a shoe showroom that represents Italian brands in Moscow. Initially, Dunya was engaged only in shoes, then a whole story of accessories and clothes was built around the shoes. Dunya is not like most of the Moscow young ladies involved in the fashion industry - she does not wear low-cut blouses, knee-length skirts and tight trousers. She does not wear makeup and speaks very quietly, without inserting English jargon into her speech. And in general, few of the fashionable young ladies dare to open a showroom in a warehouse decorated with wooden clapboard, opposite which there is a scrap metal reception and a gas station. The place, far from gloss, suits, rather, a gallery of modern art. However, the brands represented by Dunin showroom are positioned exactly as works of art.
Text: Natalya Filatova
In the early nineties, Dunya left for an international program to study in Italy, lived there for a year, mastered the language. For a year, she began to think completely not in Soviet and not even in Russian, which subsequently played a decisive role in her formation as an entrepreneur.
- A year later, I returned home, but in Moscow they no longer took me to school. As a result, I wrote my certificate by hand in the kitchen, I entered MGIMO with him, I studied for two years, then there was love, and I left MGIMO, already knowing that I would not return there. Actually, I went there at the request of my parents. My dad was the director of the Central House of Arts, a theater critic, and my sister and I intellectually developed from early childhood: we studied at a music school, went to the ice rink, in general, everything was as it should be for decent girls.
- As a girl from a decent family left for Italy, one can still understand. But how did she get into business? This is already falling out of the script.
- When I was 20 years old, my dad died, at that time I was already working, and my sister also started working quite early. Work in my life was a certain necessity: not just to survive, but to do something that would meet my intellectual needs and at the same time provide a livelihood. I can’t say that I have the ambition of self-affirmation, like a business woman. I have no goal to earn a million by the age of thirty. My ambition is to do everything at the appropriate level. Of course, if someone had told me then that I would be involved in sales, I would not have believed it.
“And yet, how did it all begin?”
- I worked as a translator at exhibitions. When I started working in 1993, I was 16 years old, and the devil knows what happened in the country. She worked as a translator at stands at industrial exhibitions, and she was engaged in literally everything - from underpants to some metal-rolling machines. And people with bags of dollars passed by, and I remember this as the most perfect madhouse. True, I do not regret that I did not take advantage of the situation when people made money literally from the air. I had a very good school, my partners explained to me how business is being done in the West, and they very seriously talked about how to do business honestly. And they tried to do everything as expected: not to conduct black bookkeeping, immediately carry cash into accounts, if they took obligations, tried to fulfill them.
- How did you taxi out of a mishmash of underpants with rolling machines for shoes?
- I worked as a translator, and almost all companies were looking for a representative in Russia. And since I studied in Italy for a year, my way of thinking was already pro-Western, the Italians felt adequate with me. Then I met with representatives of the Rocco P shoe factory, these were the first shoe makers on my way. We immediately developed wonderful human relationships. I was originally oriented to make it easy for us three — me and the two brothers who own this factory — to have new partners, and the new product to be stylistically comfortable with the product of this factory.
At that moment, fashion, as such, was already attracting me - as a factor in the influence and reflection of the sociocultural state of society. Now I have departed from this, and the question of fashion trends plunges me into a state of trance, and then I felt the romance of the fashion community, I was interested.
- How did the showroom appear?
- We opened the first showroom together with the Italians, with their money. They bought the premises, but our relationship did not work out, and they decided to leave the Russian market. Then we renovated my apartment in the Kitay-gorod area and made an office out of it. The work of the showroom was structured as follows - we worked at an exhibition in Italy for a week, then showed new samples in Moscow for a week, then sat in the office and sent orders to factories in Italy. Before moving to this premises, we did exhibitions in hotels - "Marriott" and "Ararat Hayat". Although our very first exhibition was in 1998, at the Metropol Hotel, we had 60 samples there, we spent a week and sold at best 300 pairs of shoes. And our first order went generally to the CSKA market - to the cradle of our fashion business. Many of today's buyers started at CSKA.
- It’s hard to believe that Rocco P could have been sold at CSKA in 98 ...
- Yes, at that time completely different shoes were sold in stores, and for a buyer in 1998 to order Rocco P. - It was an Act. But everyone who decided on this won. Since that time, we have not lost almost any customer.
“And you found a lot of new ones?”
- We are very careful in selecting clients, we check the stores in which our shoes will be sold, as far as they correspond to our concept.
- Why such subtleties?
- In the west, you cannot find nine shops selling one brand on the same street. And we can. But this is bad for shops and for the brand. We care more about brands, so in order for Russian distribution to comply with all the rules for the sale of such brands, we sometimes have to do distributor cleansing. We quickly “closed” Moscow to the clientele - we are not expanding the circle of our buyers in Moscow. But people come, bring passports from other cities, show photos of shops, lease agreements, and then these shoes come up in Moscow, and we are forced to catch and confiscate them. Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m not selling shoes, but smuggled diamonds.
- Why such complex fraud?
- Of course, not all store owners are professionals, and it seems to people that since their neighbor successfully sells this brand, then if they buy it, they will also successfully sell it. In fact, this logic does not work. Different stores, even those located in the neighborhood, have different customers.
In order to sell such shoes as ours, you only need to wait three or four seasons whether this brand will work in your store or not - and lure the clientele on it.
- You can read more - what are the features of this shoe?
- MWe work with non-branded goods, with companies that initially invest in their product, and not in advertising. These are real Made in Italy brands - family-owned enterprises with traditional production that do not focus on fashion trends and pay great attention to product quality.
- Are these brands more relevant today than well-known brands?
- From an economic point of view, of course, it is better to work with branded clothes or shoes. If you take only the numbers, the brand sells much better. I worked with branded clothing, and I must say that this is a completely different philosophy of market positioning, a different philosophy of communication with the client, different marketing moves. I can proudly say that today we work for the whole of Russia: the Urals, Siberia, the Krasnodar Territory plus all the former Soviet republics.
- At the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned that the presentation of your product is fundamentally different from the presentation of a branded product, what is the difference?
- The brands we work with have their own sales philosophy - their turnover is not growing due to the continuous increase in points of sale, but due to a direct increase in the turnover of one store. At the same time, the price of our products almost all consists of the cost, in contrast to the branded product, the price of which to a very large extent is precisely the price of this brand, the costs of promotion and advertising campaign.
- What is interesting about working with you for buyers?
- We provide our customers with the opportunity to change the color and material of the model as they wish, this allows them to be flexible, to adapt to stores of various profiles. Of course, John Galliano will not allow such liberties with his collection, he has a design position, and this is a dictatorial position. And we have liberalism.
- To what extent?
- Multinational companies selling branded goods have very strict requirements for merchandising, for window dressing, stores must purchase a certain number of models, preferably the entire line. We have no customers for whom our collection is basic, anchor. We work a lot with clothing stores, and our customers order five pairs in one color of a certain model. We train the staff of the stores that sell us, so that they understand what kind of product they sell.
- And what?
- In Italy, any shoemaker is compared to an artist and a sculptor, and everything he does is opera d'arte, everything is a work of art. And they treat their shoes like a piece of art. Branded shoes are already mass-produced. For me, my comfortable feeling is very important, and my business development depends on the people who work with me. Therefore, it is important for me that they also feel comfortable working with me. But in order for me to have such a beautiful room, for my friends to arrange a photography exhibition here, for my partners to sponsor all this, I need to sell a certain number of pairs of shoes. I can do it.
- How good?
- Good enough. When we rented the room, we began to expand the number of brands. I go to all exhibitions, look for new manufacturers, look for brands that are not yet in our market - I am only interested in those companies that are developing on the basis of their own factories - this is a guarantee of stability. And although, from the point of view of the economy, selling these brands is not very profitable, we see how the taste preferences of our customers are manifested, especially in the regions. First, the taste priorities of the buyer change, and he already shapes the tastes of customers.
- Do they differ from Moscow?
- You can’t talk about Moscow taste preferences, because Moscow eats everything. Moscow accounts for up to 50% of the entire fashion market. At the same time, 30-40% of luxury clothing buyers come to Moscow from the regions.
Buyers now have a very difficult job, I would not be able to work as a buyer. Recently, every season comes to 15 different trends, and the buyer is now rushing around, his preferences are very difficult to predict. In the regions there is no concept of merchandising (and in Moscow everyone began to learn this very recently), there is no understanding of how to properly display windows, nor how to form a store collection, or how to display goods at a discount.
- There is such a point of view that it is difficult to work with Italians - they either have a siesta, then public holidays, or strikes, is that so?
- There is such a problem, and we often have to work as a buffer between clients and companies. At the same time, Russia is also a very difficult country for them. The difficulty for them is that stores open and close, that Italian leather, in contact with reagents on our streets, behaves strangely. They exist in a completely different world. They have three Japanese customers, two French and one German, and then the Russian market falls on their head. They need to go somewhere, at the customs they are shaking endlessly, the bandits are pestering them, in general - a lot of unfamiliar problems. But we still insist that our partners come here so that they understand where they sell their shoes.
“Dunya, how many pairs of shoes do you have?”
- Not much. Since I work with shoes, I don’t have ugly shoes, so there’s no longing to acquire them. I treat it functionally, like a spoon or fork. But this is completely wrong for a shoe seller. If I were the right seller, I would now be ecstatic and begin to confess my love for shoes, would say that I have fifty, and preferably one hundred and fifty pairs, that I change them three times a day, because nothing is better than shoes there is no light. In general, I am the wrong seller.
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