The Directory: Buckles & Belts concept in UAE.
The owner of the newly opened Buckles & Belts -- an entire store dedicated to... well, buckles and belts -- Evelin Turria, will surely agree.
In 2006 while on a trip to Italy, Turria noticed the emphasis people placed on belts. Yet, she noted, belts were always treated as if they were an afterthought.
"Fashion brands usually consider the belt as an additional item in their range and never put the focus on it. That was our chance," she says.
That year, she opened her first Buckles & Belts store in Basel, in her home country of Switzerland. The concept was simple: You walk into a store, pick the buckle you want and the belt, which is then cut to size, and you walk out with something made just for you.
It quickly took off, and is now spread over 14 stores across Europe and Russia, the latest one in Dubai's Mercato Mall.
The Directory caught up with Turria to talk fashion, belts and the business of accessories.
So Evelin, why did you decide to bring Buckles & Belts to the UAE?
Our new franchise partner in the UAE was looking for a white belt as he had an invitation for a white party. By coincidence, he saw our store in Zurich, Switzerland, and fell in love with the concept of Buckles & Belts. Finally, he found a belt and we found a new franchise partner. We chose Mercato because it is a community mall with our target audience.
How does the concept work: From the time a customer walks into your store and walks out?
The customer can choose the belt and the buckle separately. To cut the correct belt length, the chosen buckle is attached to the sample belt, and is then given to the customer for them to try on until the length is correct. The belt is then placed in the "smoothing machine" and pulled through, after which the belt is fed into the toggle lever press and by using the B&B button, the buckle is then attached to the belt. The belt is now finished -- a hand-made one of a kind.
With this double button fastening system, which we developed ourselves, it is now not only possible to provide these fitted belts with a "finish", but also to interchange the buckles. The customer can therefore buy different buckles from us for the same belt. Our current product range consists of at least 80 belts and approximately 168 different buckles, which can all be combined in different ways. The result? More than 5,000 possible combinations!
Who would you say are your target customers?
Our customers include everyone who wants the best Italian leather available on the market and everyone who is looking for a unique belt combination. Fashion victims will find the right belt at Buckles & Belts as we are focusing only on belts.
Aren't you worried about competing with established brands who already have strong accessory lines?
We came at the right time with our concept. We first started out supplying ready-made belts, which we saw as a trendy alternative to the rather "boring" options that were already out there.
Cheap belts -- and thus usually low quality ones -- are sold by fashion houses and department stores. Genuine quality and fashionable designs are offered (if at all) by designer boutiques -- and at corresponding prices. From a price perspective, we therefore saw an opportunity to position ourselves between these two extremes. This, however, with an additional speciality: tailored fittings. So we had a machine and an innovative double button fastening system specially developed, which was able to cut a belt to the required length with exact precision. The machine is easy to use, and fits conveniently in the showroom.
So what's the price range?
A classic buckle and belt combination will cost around $100 to $120 [Dh367 to Dh734]. If you are looking for special belts in real crocodile leather, for instance, and combined with a silver sterling buckle or a buckle with Swarovski crystals, the price may go up to $1,000.
You already have branches spread across Europe. To what would you attribute your success to?
We wanted to offer the important accessory belt within the framework of a concentrated concept -- a belt that could improve an outfit or even provide it with a whole new style angle. It thereby became apparent that the demand for very extravagant belts was quite low -- at least in Switzerland. There is a much higher demand for classic and fashionable belts that, above all, have to be of excellent quality.
What are your future plans?
We continue to focus on belts in order to keep our unique profile. In addition, we will add special collections in the leather and accessories segments. Our aim is to have solid and sustainable growth with the right business partners. With the new location in Dubai, we enter into a new dimension with a possible expansion towards Asia.
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