CEO Middle East

IF THE SHOE FITS

Carmina makes beautiful shoes; its regional distributo­r tells CEO about how two family businesses have joined hands… and feet

- By JOLA CHUDY

“I EXPERIENCE­D AN INSTANT GUT FEELING THAT THESE SHOES WOULD FIND A HOME IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

Is there any more satisfying sartorial sensation than that of slipping your foot into a pair of brand new shoes? There’s something almost magical about the transforma­tive power that a good shoe has – to make you walk and feel taller, smarter, more focussed, a sharper, better version of yourself. The virginal surfaces, patina and shine slowly give in to your unique step, moulded to you and you alone. A shoe becomes an extension of its wearer in a way that not many accessorie­s or garments do. The sensation of one’s footwear is so profoundly personal; for many it is unthinkabl­e to even allow someone to try on your shoes.

“When I first chanced upon the boutique in Paris, my hands were drawn to touch the shoes,” says Abdullah Al Rashdi. It’s a sentiment we wholeheart­edly understand, because Carmina’s exquisitel­y crafted shoes draw in first the eye, then the hands and then the heart. “I was impressed by the quality, the appearance, the way that these shoes had clearly been made with great care and attention.”

The prevalence of properly constructe­d shoes has been, in the past, surprising­ly meagre, considerin­g a region whose climate and terrain does its best to destroy even the hardiest of footwear styles. Stepping between climate-controlled interiors into the inevitable pockets of sand and gravel that seem to exist even in the most establishe­d urban spaces, one would have presumed that sturdily made yet beautiful shoes would be gloriously prevalent. They weren’t. But today, connoisseu­rs of well made shoes do not need to venture through the luxury districts of Milan, Paris or London to satisfy their hankering for beautiful – they can make their way to Carmina’s new boutique in Mall of the Emirates, where a collection of the Spanish company’s products is proudly on display.

Each of the shoes is made using a very traditiona­l artisanal method whereby the design is drawn directly onto

the wooden last. A single new design may take several months from the first draft to final completion, undergoing several careful stages of design, layout, revision and perfection before the design is approved and created in its final form.

“I experience­d an instant gut feeling that these shoes would find a welcoming home in the Middle East,” says Al Rashdi, whose family presides over myriad diversifie­d businesses in the region. He says he discovered a natural affinity and shared understand­ing upon meeting with the owners of Carmina, also a family-run enterprise that employs around 150 people. Sandro Ramis is the great-grandson of Carmina’s founder and therefore the fourth generation of shoemakers – based in Mallorca – to oversee a business founded in 1866. In a twist of serendipit­y, the Ramis family had agreed a mandate for expansion. Al Rashdi’s tentative enquiry about exploring opportunit­ies in the Middle East became a firm plan. With boutiques and points of sale around the world, the region was conspicuou­sly absent from Carmina’s list of locations. Al Rashi became its first distributo­r here, signing rights for the GCC and SouthEast Asia.

“I represent a family-owned business and family values, and so does the Carmina family,” he adds. “And what establishe­d the connection between us was this shared appreciati­on for family values. The synergy was great.” Shared values and trust flow between the families, and underpin the entire philosophy of building lasting relationsh­ips between customers in the region and the heritage brand.

“This has been such a wonderful project to work on, opening in November 2020, with the family coming from Spain and the interest in the shoes growing so much here. The majority of our customers want something that is made to last; the mindset of people now is that they want something in a style that is lasting and sustainabl­e. We aren’t socialisin­g as much at the moment, and I think our customers want to know that the item they purchase now can still hold style and relevance into the future, because he or she may not be dressing to go out formally as much as they were used to in the past.”

The boutique, in Mall of Emirates, is located within a premium luxury part of the mall, with its décor created in Mallorca, reflecting the ambience of the original Spanish boutiques.

“As an entreprene­ur, retail wasn’t my original focus and I believe that ecommerce acted as a bottleneck for retail. But once I stepped into the Carmina universe it shifted my entire perspectiv­e. The customer interactio­ns with the brand here affirmed by belief that retail has its place, that shopping in person has its place.”

The tactile, intimate pleasure of browsing and touching isn’t one that can easily be replaced by a digital experience, and with hundreds of options for personalis­ation and customisin­g available for the customer, taking the time to trace one’s hands over the various options is an ode to a slow, sensual kind of decisionma­king. At Carmina, this process can be enhanced thanks to the option to customise shoes.

“Once we demonstrat­e our quality, it makes it easier for the customer to imagine the possibilit­ies for their shoe. We have calf leathers, suede, exotics… there is so much choice. For example, you can take an oxford and have the middle part of the shoe in one kind of leather and the rest in a contrast, if you want something quite eye-catching. The lead time is up to 45 days; if our factory has the more common materials in stock then it is shorter.

“Wearing a pair of Carmina shoes is special. We want to create this awareness that these styles are timeless and classical and never go out of style. We have some customers in Spain with shoes that are 25 years old, they changed the sole – but if you look after things well, they last for years to come. And that is a true sign of quality.”

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 ??  ?? Craftsmans­hip Carmina opened its first store in the UAE at the Mall of the Emirates in November of last year
Craftsmans­hip Carmina opened its first store in the UAE at the Mall of the Emirates in November of last year
 ??  ?? Excellence Carmina manufactur­es leather shoes that are shipped in the region and throughout the world
Excellence Carmina manufactur­es leather shoes that are shipped in the region and throughout the world
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