The Must Shoe Go On
Niluh Djelantik, the free-spirited and creative lady behind the shoe brand named after her, spills her secrets to success in the retail jungle.
When you stroll around the Petitenget area, you just might have seen a massive sign with the drawing of a red high heel shoe – and in case you are wondering, that is the quintessential sign of Niluh Djelantik’s store, a shoe haven for fashionistas. Bali & Beyond (BB) has always been fond of her collections, and in our talk with Niluh Djelantik (ND) one beautiful afternoon she let us understand more about her products as she shared her experiences as one of the most influential footware businesswomen in the world, despite the fact that she actually comes from a very small town in Bali. So, what is her secret to success? Check out the interview...
BB: What made you fall in love with shoes?
ND: The answer is simple: the love itself. It is simply my love and history with shoes that brought me to where I am today. When I was a child, my shoes were always too big. My mother had very little money at that time, so she bought me shoes that were too big for me so that they would last for a couple of years until I outgrew them. I began to love shoes and told myself that someday I would own shoes that actually fit, or maybe even create them myself. As time went by I began to build a career path in the retail industry, but still I had my eyes on shoes for pleasure. I now have hundreds of shoes in my closet, and never take my eyes off these pairs of happiness.
BB: When did you decide to turn your love of shoes into a business?
ND: I started to know a little too much about shoes – it was like a love and hate relationship for me. The more I knew about the character of shoes that fit me, the more I was sure that I should make my own shoes. And at that time I don’t think there were any local shoe brands that were tremendously loved by Indonesian women, not like how the Italians love Salvatore Ferragamo for example. So I started up Nilou, a French spelling of my name Niluh, in 2004. I created a Nilou workshop in Kerobokan and maintaining quality was my main devotion. It was quite a success as it managed to sell in 20 countries.
But then the company was hijacked by a big Chinese company in 2008, so I had to rebrand and renew my products. In 2009 I started up the business again under my own name, ‘Niluh Djelantik’, to show the world that our country is capable of creating an original, beautiful, and high quality product. The Chinese company offered me to work with them in their wholesale system, but I completely rejected the offer and preferred to rebuild my brand with my loyal team. After all it’s just not about business and making money, it is more about the journey of a woman who makes her dream come true.
BB: How do you maintain the success of your brand?
ND: It’s not always easy, as the global economy makes us struggle at times. And as my team consists mostly of boys, keeping them consistent is not easy. I need to be a friend, a boss, and a mother at the same time. But even though it’s difficult and chaotic, I always find my time at the warehouse as the most peaceful time. When I enter the warehouse and meet the boys to discuss and make the shoes, I feel disconnected with the world outside. I’m really focused on the production and its chaotic vibe. Somehow, it is my happy place. And the more I get to know the boys, who mostly are the shoemakers, the more I love them and want to give back to them. There are about 30 workers now, and most of them joined the team when I started the business.
Another thing that keeps me going is the enthusiasm from Indonesian women towards our collections. I hope that our creations will have a special place in the heart of Indonesian women. They probably have European shoes or shoes from other brands, but to know they also have a pair of Niluh Djelantik in their closet, it pays off all the hard work.
BB: What does it take for the younger generation to follow your path?
ND: I conduct a few classes in retail business at some universities in Indonesia, and I always remind the students to find their balance. You don’t have to have big capital, for when you have a dream and the motivation you will eventually make it. But don’t forget to do everything with principal and character and stay true to yourself, but also be flexible. For instance, some of our customers come to our shop and bring their Niluh Djelantik shoes they bought ages ago, and all they want is to fix the heels or resize them. I fulfill their requests most of the time because I want to be flexible for them. Business is about love, dedication, and loyalty. When you apply those three ingredients to your business, people can feel it and they will come to you as regular customers.
BB: What are your plans for the future?
ND: We are currently building a store in Kemang, Jakarta. It is quite unique because I built a small temple there to place offerings – which is not really common in Jakarta, I must say. The building has been in progress for almost three years now, and hopefully it will be officially launched this year.
Magazine issue > Profile&Potrait