“The increasing acceptance of fashion accessories among Indian consumers lends optimism to the belief that the currently nascent fashion accessories market can be expected to go through a dynamic phase in the years to come and witness a series of innovations.” – Managing Director, Da Milano, Sahil Malik
In a candid interview with Images Business of Fashion, Managing Director, Da Milano, Sahil Malik shares details about the latest shopping and fashion trends in leather accessories.
What would you define as the core USP of your brand vis-a-vis competition?
The blend in the array of design with craftsmanship optimally styled and finished with state-of-art machinery; meet customer aspiration of product utility with style and finesse. Also, delivering of front-end service with an ethos that has customer orientation to explain every feature and product detail to the customer, are the key differentiators that pronounce Da Milano.
How would you compare the growth of these categories to five years ago?
The scenario has changed drastically if we look back in time. Owning one single handbag would suffice needs of all occasions as the purpose was merely to tuck in variables that one may need when on the go. But with time, handbags, belts and shoes have become inseparable fashion accessories that accentuate a person’s sense of style. People now seek variety and distinction as per occasion. The growth of these categories has been close to 300 per cent in the last five years.
Tell us about the rising popularity of leather substitutes. What materials are specially enjoying demand of late?
PU or man-made leather is rising in popularity. PU leather, when compared to real leather, is very similar in terms of look and feel and it is very tough to tell the difference between the real leather and PU leather. But PU leather is ultimately a man-made material and exists to give the look and feel of real leather at exceptionally lower cost and hence is far less durable, considerably cheaper and would not last long.
Apart from the blacks and browns, what demand do coloured leather products enjoy?
Though blacks and browns are the classics when it comes to leather but other pop colours like berry, blue, fuchsia, orange even green are well received. This season, at Da Milano, we also introduced a metallic leather collection which is also doing exponentially well.
Are Indian customers prepared to pay for expensive products or do they seek value for money?
There is no doubt that the Indian customers have the potential to spend on expensive products but they only do if they find it value for money. So both factors are taken into consideration for making the final purchase.
Do Indian customers look for individualistic pieces or just follow trends?
The fashion industry is fast changing. The customers do not want run-of-the-mill assembly line products but rather individualistic accessories that pronounce their signature style.
How important is the post purchase care for leather products?
Leather ages beautifully with time if taken care off well. Regular cleaning and conditioning not only increases the life span of the product but also ensures that the leather stays supple. It is important as leather is prized because it can be both flexible and durable. If leather loses its natural oils and moisture, it loses its flexibility and its fibrous interweave will start to crack and eventually break down.
What percentage of your sales comes from leather products?
It is close to 90 percent.
What is the sales ratio contribution of – bags: wallets: belts: shoes?
Bags account for 40 per cent of the sales, while wallets and belts make up for 10 per cent of the sales and the rest goes to footwear, that is, 30 per cent.
Tell us about your product design and development prowess and the typical lifecycle of concept to shelf.
Our products are designed for utility best met with elegance. Every feedback continuously inspires us to innovate our design sensibilities proactively and reciprocate aspirations of our customers in our offerings.
Are fashion accessories affected by seasons? What are the main influencers?
Fashion accessories, specially those crafted in leather are affected by the monsoon season as leather tends to catch moisture of the weather and gets spoilt.
Your comments on the workmanship skills of Indian leather artisans. Do you have to train them to align with international standards?
The craftsmanship ensures a blend of the orient with west and produced at plants that are the state-of-art. We take staff orientation into utmost consideration that includes specific training on every technical aspect of the product and the machinery that it takes to get the designs into existence.
How important is adding a footwear line to a leather goods based fashion business model?
Our footwear and accessories brand Rosso Brunello has received an overwhelming response in the past few years of the launch. Fashionable footwear really completes the requirement of our customers in return adding 35 per cent to our total business this year.
Tell us about your e-retailing strategies, initiatives and the results this has borne.
The world is getting digital nowadays, the lifestyle of the people is such that they are no longer hesitant to browse online to save time. With easy exchange and return policies, delivery methods, payment modes and exciting offers, virtual shopping is becoming convenient.
With the breakthrough of internet, an information highway is created extending leverage of increasing sales. CRM solutions help tapping the right customers and make it easier to communicate with them, study their buying habits, preferences and accordingly, device campaigns.
Our approach is to provide customer with a seamless shopping experience, whether through our e-boutiques or stores. Our dedicated IT team and customer care services are readily available to resolve customer queries and enhance their shopping experience. Strong digital marketing campaigns and aggressive social media combined with world class store experience is the way forward.
Tell us about your initiatives in developing Smart/Technology based products.
At Da Milano, we keep experimenting with our design aesthetics and constantly innovate our offerings. Few years back, we introduced handbags with in-built light. As soon as you would open the clip of the handbag the light would pop allowing ease of looking for belongings inside. We are also in the middle of introducing travel gear with in-built weighing scale and power bank keeping in mind the needs of a refined traveller of today.
How do you see the market evolving over the next few years for fashion accessories and why?
As fashion awareness in India grows astronomically, the growth in accessories is a natural progression. Also, the Tier II and Tier III cities are showing high growth potential, more and more brands are moving towards these cities. The increasing acceptance of fashion accessories among Indian consumers lends optimism to the belief that the currently nascent fashion accessories market can be expected to go through a dynamic phase in the years to come.
Are you looking for franchisees for retail growth? In which regions of the country are you looking for franchisee options?
As a company policy, we do not go the franchisee route. All our stores are company operated and we take pride calling the Da Milano group a zero debt organisation.