To coincide with the reopening of luxury shoe store Moreschi in Dubai Mall, Mario Moreschi travelled to Dubai to discuss the brand, its beginnings and future plans. The third-generation owner and chief operating officer knows the region well – his brand has been linked with retail conglomerate Apparel Group since 2006, and opened its Dubai Mall boutique in 2009. The recent refurbishment is part of a global plan to update the company, which has been around since 1946 and now employees over 400 workers in its native Italy.
The family aspect of the business shines through when talking to Moreschi. For example, he tells us that the majority of the company’s workforce is female and there is a crèche at the factory for the employees’ children. But he really comes alive when reminiscing about how his grandfather started the business nearly 70 years ago. “He was the director of a small bank branch in Italy’s textile region. One of his best friends asked him, ‘Mario, I’m starting a shoe factory and I need someone who has a mind for finance.’ My grandfather was also a fan of the premium. He loved music, he loved to fly, he loved the orchestra. So he joined in 1951 and helped a lot in the early days but unfortunately he passed on in 1957. This is when my father took on the business alone.”
His father went on to oversee Moreschi as it became one of the first companies to export shoes to the Far East, specifically Japan and Hong Kong. “He’s 81-years-old and he’s a bull. He still works,” says the son proudly. The head of international franchises quickly reminds Moreschi that in fact he’s 81 on the day of the interview. They make a note to call him later in the day.
The brand now operates in 28 different locations worldwide and there are 10 outlets in Italy alone including a four-story flagship store in Milan. Moreshchi talks about the challenges of upholding the values of tradition and craftsmanship in a period of expansion. “We will always keep our traditions. Our team of designers tries to update our products and materials rather than re-invent them. If you see our factory in Italy you will see this heritage. Our master cobbler travels around the stores to show how the shoes are made and we organise trunk shows and regular events. What we really want to do is create a network to teach our consumer about quality and to show them the DNA of our shoes.”
He goes onto describe the care shown in the aging process of the premium leather that they use, which is all done in house. Meanwhile Esquire, perhaps justifiably, is distracted by the glint of polished leather shoes that Moreschi currently is wearing. He notices. “These are Stefano and Mario limited editions,” he says proudly. “Stefano is my brother and I like to wear these as anything that is rare makes you feel special.”
Impressed, we decide to take a tour of the store to see if we too can feel rather special. Our favourite is a blue and red driving shoe, a model seen at the better brunches and boutiques across the city. “This is the Portofino, our iconic shoe,” says Moreschi proudly. “This model has lasted for the last four of five years and it always sells. It’s a car shoe that is light and perfect for summer. The deerskin model is so soft and comfortable.”
He talks about the new store concept as we walk. “We want to introduce people to our service. Not just as a shop but as an experience. In Japan when people enter the store we offer them a pair of slippers. These little bits of service let the customer know that they’re entering into a world of quality.”
We sit down again to discuss plans for the coming years. “Our challenge for the next three to five years is to expand with more shops and to become even more of an established brand. My wish, and the wish of my family, is to make Moreschi a symbol of Italian shoes, as Ferrari is to cars and Rolex is to Swiss watches. These are classic brands with real quality.”
Those new store locations include Geneva, Moscow, Tehran and Doha. The diversity seems quite surprising but important questions have been asked and correctly answered before any new opening was signed off. “Firstly we look at the reliability of the partner to open the store and to follow up with this in a serious way. The second is location, location and location. It doesn’t matter how good your store is; if you open in the wrong place then nothing will happen.”
Dubai’s retail sales turnover was $39.6bn in 2013 and is estimated to reach $55.7bn in 2020, helped of course by the Expo. With Dubai’s position as the second most important international retail destination in the world after New York, according to CBRE Consulting, a focus on the city and in turn the region would seem the right decision. “Our business here has been the most stable for Moreschi in recent years,” agrees Moreschi. “We have always grown. In Dubai we have the best image. We’re established and seen as a top brand.”
The numbers justify Mr Moreschi’s belief that now is the time to invest still further in retail. “Our locations help us to demonstrate the speciality of our products. Our handmade, artisanal craftsmanship.”