Italian Craftsmanship Meets the Global Fashion Marketplace

As we near our 10 year anniversary of TRU Show, it’s fascinating to look back and note all the changes in the footwear industry. Fast forward to today, where shoe retailers and reps have to be on their toes to thrive in a global economy that is driven by the constant flow of information to consumers. So, I think our next interview will be interesting for everyone trying to ride the tide of the footwear and fashion industry. David Clementoni’s entrepreneurial spirit and love for the art of shoemaking in his country gave birth to the idea for his company, Italian Artisan.

Tell us how Italian Artisan came to be…

I recognized a business need between small luxury buyers and high quality Italian manufacturers.

Italian ArtisanBuyers of luxury fashion for department or boutique stores are increasingly eager to find something that will differentiate them from their competitors. Exclusively designed and manufactured fashion pieces allow them to sharpen their product offerings to clients. In fact, even large established high-end fashion brands are at risk of losing their appeal because of a widespread shift to mass production and industrialization. Made in Italy products continue to carry the reputation of high fashion, high quality. But it can be difficult for buyers to find and communicate with these high-quality manufacturers.

At the same time, the vast majority of Italian Manufacturers of Excellence find it hard to reach out to international markets due to a number of factors, including limited scarpa-finitaknowledge of international business best practices and language barriers. Still, they are eager to find new revenue streams outside Italy, across flourishing international markets. Italian Artisan simplifies this process for both sides.

Tell be about the range of products available to buyers?

Our buyers have access to designs in men’s and women’s high fashion footwear as well as a large accessory line including, leather wallets, cases, and a large collection of bags. We have over 450 bags in collection. The magic of our short design cycles is that new collections can be added all the time. Small manufacturers have the flexibility to produce designs with a 4-6 week lead time.

How did you get started developing your company?

David ClementoniIn June 2013, I decided to leave my family business (www.clementoni.com), to pursue the entrepreneurial adventure of helping the internationalization of small Made in Italy manufacturers.

A chance encounter with my business partner, Andrea, a computer engineer with more than 20 years of experience, was instrumental. My managerial skills and internationalization know-how and Andrea’s technological and programming skills were the right mix for the realization of Italian Artisan.

How does Italian Artisan connect retail stores in America to Italian Manufacturers?

Italian Artisan is a powerful, yet easy-to-use B2B web platform that enables connections and transactions between Buyers and Manufacturers. The business process between parties becomes exceptionally efficient, effective and fast.

Buyers choose from a wide range and variety of top of the line Italian fashion goods—they can even define their own unique, dream collection and get it done in three easy steps.

Manufacturers raise their visibility significantly to Buyers ready to buy their products. Manufacturers keep doing what they do best while letting Artisan’s platform to do the rest.

Buyers and Manufacturers benefit from an adaptive fast-track process that helps dramatically reduce communication time between parties and helps them close transactions easily.

old-way---new-way---black Italian Artisan

Thank you, David, for sharing this exciting news. Your platform is connecting retailers to a world of opportunity, allowing them to create the kind of unique footwear portfolio their customers are looking for.

If you are interested in learning more or placing an order with Italian Artisan, contact David at http://www.italian-artisan.com/

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Meet Lori Markman

Lori and I caught up after her recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico; a state known for its rich traditions and culture. Her trip coincided with the festival of the Day of the Dead, a time to honor the lives of ancestors that have passed. Celebrating life and living with a purpose is a conscious choice of Lori’s. Join us as we talk about the work Lori does for TOMS.

 

 

 

Tell me a little about your career and how you began working with TOMS.

I’ve worked in the women’s clothing industry for 35 years. TOMS is a unique brand with a distinctive niche in the shoe and clothing industry. When they launched, they looked for sales professionals who understood the close relationship between clothing, shoes, and fashion. At the time I began working with TOMS, there was just one silhouette, the slip on apalgata. Now, TOMS is a full-fledged shoe and accessory brand with a range of styles, materials, and updated labeling. With these enhancements and upscale styles, the finer contemporary boutiques are also now selling TOMS. Working with TOMS is different than just selling shoes. My work with TOMS has a purpose. It has influenced me to choose lines that are socially responsible and give my work meaning.

Can you tell me more about TOMS corporate mission?

The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, is a different kind of entrepreneur. He has an interesting business mind that is focused on how TOMS can affect change in 3rd world countries and for those in need in the USA. By now, most consumers understand the One for One business model. For every shoe purchased, TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. TOMS has given out over 35 million pairs to date! Most people don’t know that a 3rd of the shoes we give back are actually produced in the same country were they are given. That means, TOMS is not only giving shoes to children in need; their parents are getting jobs in our factories! And TOMS doesn’t just give a pair of shoes one time, they give that same child a new pair of shoes approximately every 6 months as they grow. That enables them to attend school and get a full education! The business model has to be sustainable, and that is why we have so many new styles and products, so that we can continue to give for generations to come.

It’s not just about shoes. TOMS portfolio of products continues to grow. Their eyewear line provides sight to someone in need by giving prescription glasses, simple medical treatment, or cataract surgery. Their new handbag division helps provide prenatal care to pregnant woman. And…TOMS coffee provides water in regions that don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.

That’s really inspiring… you must love going to work!

After many years working as a sales rep, I am reinvigorated by work that has a purpose. Working with TOMS has influenced me to choose socially responsible lines to represent. It gives my work a deeper meaning.

I think that the Giving Trips are one of the most amazing benefits working with TOMS. You actually see what we do and how it affects families. We never just drop off a box of shoes. Someone from TOMS, or another NGO, actually gets to look in the eyes of a child and put the shoes on their feet. Having the mother thanks us personally is amazing.

Representing TOMS means long hours, many detailed reports, and accountability. I am ready and willing to jump through hoops because I know that my work is making a huge difference to people in need.

We are happy you’ve brought TOMS to TRUShow… what has been your experience coming to TRU?                                              

I’ve been with TRU Show for about 6 years. It’s a terrific show, and I am so impressed how well it is managed.

It is very well attended, and the location and set up make it convenient for buyers to shop. I get exposed to a lot of stores that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to work with.


Bare Your Soul

What is your most treasured possession?

My cat, Ziggy.

What inspires you?

I am motivated by my own momentum and reputation in the industry.  The desire to continue to do the best for my customers by providing good service, represent a great product and help them continue to run a successful business.

What is your favorite time of day?

Mornings.  My quiet time with Ziggy before the day gets going, and a bit of yoga to start the day makes me very happy.

Also, my alone time, in my office, at the end of the day, when the phones have stopped ringing and I can merchandise and regroup.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished the autobiography of Graham Nash, Wild Tales; which recalls my musical roots.  Now, I’m reading a book about sustainability in the fashion industry called, Wear No Evil

What do you like to do on your day off?

Drive my 1950 Chrysler Imperial, Agnes, anywhere.

What is your favorite city to travel to?

Seattle, Washington. 

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Susan Sarandon.

If you had a super power, what would it be?

Travel through space without getting on a plane.  I fly way too much, and travel too little…

What is your guilty pleasure?

Being lazy.  Watching T.V.

What sound do you love?

The clanking of pool table balls, and the Ocean.

What is your favorite pair of shoes?

My LAMB boots by Gwen Stefani.

 

Thank you Lori for taking the time to share and inspire us.  You can catch up with Lori and the latest from TOMS at one of our upcoming TRU Show events.

 

Visit Shawna Rider at ShuzyQ Anchorage, Alaska

Join us for a virtual tour of ShuzyQ in Anchorage, Alaska. Shawna is a fresh talent in this business with an eye for innovative, stylish designs. You’re going to want to read more about her and the super cool store in Anchorage that offers the full range of styles to a broad spectrum of customers with a fun, hands on approach to service.

Shawna, tell me about your store…

ShuzyQ is based in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. It is a fun, funky, eclectic store. We sell everything from high heels to mud boots. Our customers span the full range of ages and styles. Often they are looking for something special and they can’t find it anywhere else. We have a special relationship with our customers. We know who they are and we cater to their individual needs. We also hope that people have fun in our store. It should feel like a party. Which is why we actually host shoe parties at our store. Another fun incentive we give our customers is a little “Shoe Sugar” with their purchase. Shoe Sugar is a 10% credit towards their next purchase. They save it up and get excited to come pick out that special pair of shoes.

What do you love about your job?

I love every part of my job.

I love the interaction with customers at the store. Each day we share our favorite story, favorite customer, or just something fun that happened that day.

I love going to the shoe shows and having the opportunity to see what’s new and exciting.

I also love the opportunity to be involved in the community. We recently held a shoe design contest.   Over 20,000 people voted online and more than 250 people came into our store to vote for the winning shoe design.   Designed locally, the winning design is now being considered for production in the Fall 2015 line with Bucketfeet.

What are you looking for when you come to TRU Show?

We’re looking for shoes that are new and innovative. We want to be the 1st in Anchorage to carry a new brand and the best of the current brands.

How does the environment at TRU Show help you to get what you need?

TRU Show is a relaxed, pleasant environment. All the brands we are looking for are there and we often discover something new. At TRU we have more time and attention with each sales representative.

 


Bare Your Soul

What inspires you?

Creativity.  Seeing other people who are innovating; thinking outside the box.

What historical figure do you admire?

Elizabeth Peratrovich.  As a Native Alaskan herself, she has done so much for the equality of Alaskan Natives.

What is your favorite time of day?

First thing in the morning.  I love my morning snuggles with my little 2 year old.

What are you currently reading?

The Firecracker Boys, by Dan O’Neil

What do you like to do on your day off?

Mountain Biking.

What is your favorite city to travel to?

Cusco, Peru and Segovia, Spain. 

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Oh, someone cute I hope…

What is your guilty pleasure?

Red Wine.

Where was your first job?

I was a cashier at a grocery store in Nome, Alaska.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I would make more time in a day.

What sound do you love?

I love the feeling of sunshine and the sound of rain.

What are you wearing on your feet?

Ariat Cowboy Boots.

 

Thanks Shawna for taking the time to talk with us.  Catch up with Shawna at SuzyQ in Anchorage, Alaska or invite her to come see your footwear and accessory lines at the next TRU Show event.

Meet Ken Sollie

Ken Sollie

First appearance gives you the impression Ken grew up on the California coast, surfing in the sunshine. So, it surprised me to learn that he was born in southern Alabama before moving to Alaska as a child. A career in the shoe industry gave Ken the opportunity to make his way to the golden coast and have the lifestyle that includes all the things that matter most to him. I caught up with Ken, at his home, on one of those rare days in between trade shows and meetings with buyers.

How did you get your start in the shoe industry?

I got my start working at Nordstrom in Anchorage, Alaska. I began the trade stocking shelves.  Eventually, I worked my way up to shoe department manager.   When the opportunity arose, I moved from Alaska to open and manage Nordstrom shoe departments throughout Southern California and eventually became a buyer for the department store.  After about 15 years, I became a rep  and began selling lines to retailers.

I enjoy working with independent, family owned and operated stores. My experience gives me the ability to consult with buyers and shop owners on their business management, merchandising, and window displays.   I have a responsibility to them because I can affect their business for good or bad. So, it’s never about just getting the order. I want to be more than a one hit wonder in their stores. I want to have a lasting presence there.

Tell me more about the brand you currently represent?

I represent Latigo, a label under the Footwear Unlimited Company. Latigo embodies vintage, chic designs and a cool, raw, leather vibe.   It weaves together superior materials, stylish design and lasting comfort. The company is managed by a father/son team with solid Midwestern values and a respect for family.   It’s a great company.

What do you love about your job?

I love a lot about my job; the friendships I’ve developed with retailers and wholesalers, the travel to stores and tradeshows and helping stores achieve success. At the heart of it, it is a business that connects people. I like to be out there talking to people. I get to do that every day in this job.

How long have you been coming to TRU Show?                                               

I’ve been coming to TRU Show since its beginning. It’s a unique show that really provides a space for independent merchandisers. The show is organized by similar brand styles. So, retailers can easily browse new brands for their stores. The show layout with individual show rooms reminds me of the days when stores advertised with big window displays. Each exhibitor can set up their room to show off their lines and the retailers get to window shop the whole show.

What has been the biggest change in the shoe industry since you began?                                               

The Internet. Stores have to evolve to compete in the age of internet retailers. While the brick and mortar stores can provide excellent customer service, their customers are also prepared to shop for the best price. So, stores need to be better informed who they are competing with for the best retail price.


Bare Your Soul

What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t place much value in material things.  The most valuable thing to me is my family.

What inspires you?

Happiness.

What is your favorite time of day?

Mornings.

What historical figure would you like to meet?

Elvis.

What are you currently reading?

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.

What is your least favorite word?

Yeah.

What is your favorite city to travel to?

Seattle. 

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Bruce Willis.

If you had a super power, what would it be?

Breathing Underwater.

What would you do on a day off?

Go Surfing.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Red Wine.

Where was your first job?

McDonald’s.

What sound do you love?

The Ocean.

What is your favorite pair of shoes?

My OluKai’s.

 

Thanks Ken for taking the time to talk with us.  Catch up with Ken and view the Latigo Brand at our next TRU Show event.