The CEO of Mario Mi­nardi re­counts the brand’s East-meet­sWest ap­proach for high qual­ity leather footwear

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Afunny thing hap­pened dur­ing our photo and in­ter­view ses­sion with Mario Mi­nardi’s Handiman Ali at the brand’s flag­ship store at Kota Kasablanka, Jakarta. At one point, a mid­dle-aged gen­tle­man walked in and, af­ter brows­ing a bit, in­quired about whether Mario Mi­nardi was an Ital­ian brand. When told that it was es­sen­tially an In­done­sian brand but regis­tered in Italy, he seemed in­cred­u­lous, cit­ing (not qui­etly) the make and prices of the footwear pieces on dis­play.

Ap­par­ently, it was this gen­tle­man’s be­lief that noth­ing “lo­cal” could be this re­fined— or com­mand such prices. To be fair, that gen­tle­man wasn’t ex­actly alone in think­ing so. In a way, this is a com­mon stigma long en­dured by many of In­done­sia’s trend­set­ters as they con­tinue to make their mark in an in­creas­ingly global play­ground dom­i­nated by pre­mium im­ports from well- es­tab­lished for­eign brands.

Those fa­mil­iar with the brand, how­ever, know that Mario Mi­nardi is as Ital­ian as it is In­done­sian, and that the brand’s leather shoes com­bine the best of both worlds. It is also true, how­ever, that it was only last De­cem­ber, when the afore­men­tioned flag­ship store was of­fi­cially opened, that Mario Mi­nardi be­came a true house­hold name. This step also reaf­firmed the brand’s In­done­sian roots and in­tro­duced lo­cal shoe afi­ciona­dos to an en­tirely new level of home­grown footwear and leather­work­ing know-how.

At the helm of this fine la­bel is Handiman Ali, Mario Mi­nardi’s CEO and third-gen­er­a­tion owner who over­sees the brand’s gen­eral di­rec­tion, re­search and de­vel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion and in­no­va­tion. While ap­pear­ing some­what re­served—and ini­tially rather ner­vous as well; ap­par­ently, be­ing in the lime­light is one as­pect he hasn’t got­ten used to yet—he quickly turned pas­sion­ate as the small talk ended and we be­gan chat­ting about his brand, his shoes and the fu­ture of Mario Mi­nardi.

Joezer Mandagi: There’s still a lot of peo­ple who don’t know what kind of brand Mario Mi­nardi ac­tu­ally is; par­tic­u­larly about its coun­try of ori­gin. How would you ex­plain your brand’s iden­tity to the av­er­age cus­tomer?

Handiman Ali: Mario Mi­nardi is an Ital­ian brand, li­censed from Italy, which was es­tab­lished in In­done­sia around 1982. The com­pany was es­tab­lished by my grand­fa­ther and my fa­ther, and I’m the third­gen­er­a­tion head of the busi­ness. I started at a very young age, at 15, in the shoe fac­tory, learn­ing how to design, do­ing my own stitch­ing and even as­sem­bling shoes my­self, un­til to­day.

JM: What are Mario Mi­nardi’s pri­mary tar­get mar­kets at the mo­ment?

HA: Our pri­mary mar­ket is still In­done­sia, fol­lowed by Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, Thai­land, Ja­pan and also China.

JM: Do you have any plans to ex­pand the brand’s reach be­yond those coun­tries?

HA: Yes, of course. That is part of our vi­sion and mis­sion. So, our base is, of course, in shoe pro­duc­tion, and we want to bring the brand to other coun­tries. We also reg­u­larly par­tic­i­pate in trade shows in Europe to rein­tro­duce our cre­ations.

JM: Speak­ing of Mario Mi­nardi’s global reach, in all the years that you have in busi­ness, have you no­ticed dif­fer­ing footwear pref­er­ences in the coun­tries where your shoes are avail­able? HA:

Ba­si­cally, In­done­sia has the widest range of de­mands, since we have a huge pop­u­la­tion. So, Mario Mi­nardi has to be able to of­fer shoes that not only cer­tain peo­ple can buy. We can now cater to peo­ple as young as 25 to those 50, 60 and even 70 years of age. We also of­fer be­spoke or made-to- or­der shoes. But as to pref­er­ence, In­done­sia dif­fers from other coun­tries. In In­done­sia we can of­fer ca­sual and fash­ion­able shoes; both mod­ern and clas­sic op­tions sell well. In Sin­ga­pore, we do well in clas­sic shoes, and in Malaysia as well. Thai­land has mixed pref­er­ences, whether it is clas­sic, fash­ion and mod­ern. Ja­pan, though, is all about fash­ion. So, we have a very, very wide range. For In­done­sia, again, we have a very large pop­u­la­tion, and men nowa­days like to dress up. They want to look cool. So, Mario Mi­nardi can be a one-stop-shop­ping des­ti­na­tion for all their needs, from shoes and san­dals to belts and ac­ces­sories. In the fu­ture, we will also de­velop a line of suits.

JM: Hav­ing, as you men­tioned ear­lier, such a wide range, is there still some­thing that serves as the hall­mark of Mario Mi­nardi’s shoes? HA:

Our leather soles. You can say that not many make shoes this way; in In­done­sia only very few do it. All right, some im­ported brands might do sim­i­lar things, but lo­cally? Al­most none. So, in essence, we are of­fer­ing very good shoes—Ital­ian shoes—at a very good price. All of our ma­te­ri­als are im­ported from Italy, but we pro­duce here in In­done­sia. Why? Be­cause of the crafts­man­ship. In­done­sians are ex­cel­lent at arts and crafts, right? We have a lot of artists, a lot of skilled hands. So, we com­bine Ital­ian tech­nol­ogy, Ital­ian de­signs and Ital­ian ma­te­ri­als with In­done­sian crafts­man­ship, thus cre­at­ing very nice prod­ucts with— again—very good prices.

JM: How has the brand’s de­signs evolved over time? HA:

“for our cus­tom-made shoes, we scan your left and right foot, and from that data we will make a Pair of shoes based on those mea­sure­ments”

We have gone through a lot of evo­lu­tions. When we first launched, Mario Mi­nardi was very clas­sic— very old-ish. Af­ter the year 2000, we changed a lot. We made shoes that weren’t too clas­sic, but more along the lines of con­tem­po­rary-smart. So, these would be shoes that you could wear not only to for­mal func­tions but also daily—to the of­fice, to events, any­thing. And we added new lines. We used to only have clas­sic shoes, but now we have ca­sual mod­els, fash­ion­able op­tions and col­ored ones. We be­come bolder when it comes to blend­ing col­ors. Our lat­est col­lec­tion, the Patina Col­lec­tion, was hand-painted, with ev­ery pair sport­ing dif­fer­ent col­ors.

JM: Speak­ing of the Patina Col­lec­tion, do you have more the­matic col­lec­tions planned for the fu­ture? HA:

Yes, we do. We are try­ing to de­velop shoes fea­tur­ing a mix of wo­ven ma­te­ri­als. Just a small col­lec­tion, though; noth­ing big, just some­thing to re­fresh the brand. The Patina [col­lec­tion], for ex­am­ple, was some­thing re­fresh­ing, some­thing new. In the fu­ture, that’s the di­rec­tion we’re mov­ing to­ward: mak­ing col­lec­tions with dis­tinct mo­tifs.

JM: About Mario Mi­nardi’s made-to- or­der shoes— what kind of cus­tomiza­tion ser­vices do you of­fer? HA:

For our cus­tom-made shoes, they are fit­ted 100 per­cent to your feet. We are open­ing a new shop and adding a new ma­chine—a foot scan­ner. We can scan your left and right foot, and from that data we will make a pair of shoes based on those mea­sure­ments. Your left and right shoes will not be ex­actly the same, but the design and the look of the pair will be per­fect. So, peo­ple who usu­ally have trou­ble find­ing shoes can have a per­fectly fit­ted pair made ac­cord­ing to what­ever design they wish.

JM: Fi­nal ques­tion: What do you, and what should we, look for when pick­ing a new pair of shoes? HA:

Style, looks and com­fort. But I have one par­tic­u­lar tip for peo­ple look­ing to buy new shoes: Why do peo­ple in In­done­sia al­ways look for some­thing that’s black, black, or black? You have to be will­ing to go out of the box. Try a brown pair, try tan, try any­thing else.

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