FASHION - INTERVIEW
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tarik Ozkan, Gaye Ozkan and Umar Saleemi
FASHION - INTERVIEW
by Mehmet Kaplan
After almost two decades of experience in the leather industry, Tarik and Gaye Ozkan decided to launch their own men's shoe brand. They started out with woven leather loafers and named the brand Maglieriapelle (woven leather in Italian). The shoes are handcrafted by in-house artisans at their factory in Istanbul. I recently sat down with Tarik (CEO and operations), Gaye (marketing) and Umar (strategy and business development) to learn more about Maglieriapelle.
Tarik, could you tell us about your background and shoemaking industry experience?
TARIK: I have been in the leather business for over 25 years, starting with the import/export of exotic leathers. During the course of that business, I worked with and met numerous leather industry professionals - owners, tanners, shoemakers, you name it. And from those experiences and associations, I learned a great deal about the business.
What inspired you to create Maglieriapelle? Is this a family tradition for you?
TARIK: Along the way, we met a number of highly qualified and experienced shoemakers with generations of experience. So after almost two decades in the leather business, Gaye and I thought it would make sense to 'specialize' and that's where the idea of a shoe company was born. We gathered six shoemakers each of whom was an expert in their respective area. So while shoemaking doesn't run in my family, our workers have a tradition of shoemaking by hand in their families for generations.
Could you tell us about Maglieriapelle?
GAYE: Sure. As we started to think about a shoe business, we were sure that we wanted to create unique shoes exuding quality and style. We had a few interesting ideas in mind. The very first models we created were loafers made from imported woven leather that we thought would do really well. And that's actually why we named the company Maglieriapelle, which means woven leather in Italian. That's about the extent of the brand being 'Italian' (laughs). We get that question a lot so to clarify, all of our shoes are handcrafted by our artisans in our factory in Istanbul.
How would you describe Maglieriapelle’s design and manufacturing philosophy?
UMAR: Our philosophy revolves around sophisticated style, expert craftsmanship, and stellar customer experience. Everything we do on a day-to-day basis fits into one of those three buckets. We believe that the success we enjoy today is a direct result of handcrafting the best men's shoes without compromises and making them available worldwide at honest prices.
It is very difficult to ensure the sustainability of quality craftsmanship in handmade production. The most important factor is talented craftsmen. Could you tell us about your team?
UMAR: It won’t be an exaggeration to say that our team is our lifeblood. We are very lucky to have extremely talented and skilled artisans and they are the number one competitive advantage we have. We work hard and play hard. And over the years we have made strong bonds - our families know one another and we just have a morphed into one big family where each member of the team strives to create their best every day. That being said, our factory supervisor and quality assurance team inspect each pair multiple times during the production cycle to ensure we always deliver the best handcrafted shoe money can buy.
And you have to be very selective while deciding the raw materials for creating premium leather shoes? Why do you prefer Italian leather?
TARIK: Absolutely, the shoes are only as good as the materials we use in them so we spend a lot of time sourcing the best leathers. We also continually experiment with new raw materials to find the best candidates for future products.
How many different types of leather do you use in production? Do your preferred leather types vary according to the shoes’ style?
GAYE: We use full-grain calfskin leather sourced from top producers. As for exotic leather products, we use genuine python, crocodile, iguana and stingray leathers among others.
How many different collections do you have under the Maglieriapelle brand?
UMAR: Over the last year, we have dramatically expanded our collection. We now have oxfords, derbys, loafers, monk straps, boots, sneakers, belts, and exotic leathers. We are also working to bring handcrafted and hand-painted wallets and bags in the near future.
How often do you change up your collections? How do you follow trends in the fashion market?
GAYE: We attend a lot of trade shows and exhibitions year-round to observe the trends in the marketplace and to appreciate what our peers are up to. Obviously, we follow the industry publications as well. But at the end of the day, we like to put our own unique mark on the products we design. A bulk of our creations come out in Spring and Fall but we like to surprise our customers by introducing new models in between when possible.
Could you tell us about Maglieriapelle shoes and their features?
TARIK: Maglieriapelle shoes are what we call an ‘affordable luxury’. It may sound cliché but that’s our mission - making premium handcrafted shoes available at honest prices to men worldwide. The shoes are fashionable yet comfortable, stylish yet durable with many of them featuring our signature opanka construction. You will see very few other brands that use full leather construction at this price point. Our exotic leather shoes compete on quality with similar offerings anywhere else without costing an arm and a leg. And finally, our signature hand-painting ensures that there is no other shoe quite like yours anywhere in the world. The result is a shoe that you will wear for years and feel good about its proud history and artistic heritage.
Do you have any favorite shoe styles or models that you prefer in your daily life?
GAYE: That’s a tough one (laughs). The Fethiye premium shoe is an all-time favorite. So are Pamukkale, Efes, Cunda, and Agva. You can find all of our best sellers on our website.
How do you decide to design a new shoe? Do you have a plan on the desk or only expect inspiration?
TARIK: We have the best designers on our staff and they have a lot of latitude to design what our customers want. I’d say it’s more of an inspiration than a concrete plan. Some designs may be iterative in nature due to past successes but most are new creations.
Do you still use paper and pen for your sketches, or is every process digital now?
UMAR: Our designers start with paper and pencil on each new idea and let their creativity flow. At some point, we do generate the digital sketches to iterate and experiment with the designs. I think it’s fair to say that we discard at least five to seven designs for each new model that gets created eventually.
Social media platforms are new podiums for fashion brands. What is the importance of social media for you? How can our readers follow Maglieriapelle?
GAYE: Social media is the most important influencer in how today’s customers buy and consume products and share information about them. We have invested heavily in making sure that our existing and potential customers can browse our products on our website along with reviews, see them being made on Youtube and share lifestyle images on Facebook and Instagram. A very large number of our customers find us through these channels (in addition to word of mouth) and we’d like that trend to continue and strengthen.
Here are our official channels:
How can our readers buy Maglieriapelle shoes and accessories?
UMAR: We are a direct-to-consumer brand so our website is the best way to browse our collections and place an order. The customers can also buy from within Instagram by clicking the shopping bag icon on the lifestyle images we share on a regular basis.
What is next for you?
TARIK: We will continue to focus on making and marketing the best-handcrafted shoes for men all over. We will also be working to bring other products like bags and wallets to customers. And that’s just the beginning - there’s a lot more to come in the months and years ahead.
Thank you for this enjoyable interview.