In Conversation with Ruchi Sally, Managing Director of Melissa India on changing the landscape of retail in India
Shoes have long been an exposed nerve when it comes to building a sustainable wardrobe. Unethical leather, cheap quality, un-recyclable plastic, and PVC make ethical shoe shopping hard. While the status quo is yet to change, the entry of Brazilian shoe brand Melissa in India surely catalyzed a change in the landscape. And this change has been brought about by Melissa India’s managing director Ruchi Sally who has morphed this hardly-heard-of Brazilian shoe brand to a celebrity-approved household name in India, with loyalists like Alia Bhat, Kiara Advani, Shilpa Shetty, Ayushmann Khurrana, and a better part of tinsel town. With collaborations like À La Garconne, Fiorella Gianni, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Jason Wu, and Vivienne Westwood in their oeuvre, it won’t be an exaggeration to state that Sally is racing the waves of her ‘sole’ful journey as the MD of Melissa Shoes. We caught up to share a peek of her journey so far, Melissa Shoes’ sustainability commandments, and her vision for the brand in the future.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been associated with Melissa shoes and how has your journey been?
I am a passionate person by nature and value simple ideas. I love building brands. Prudently, I have been closely associated with the changing landscape of retail in India. Needless to state that I loved every bit of it. Personally, I practice vegetarianism and have a firm opinion on animal rights. So, when Melissa came my way; I was very happy to be associated with a no-cruelty brand and was enthralled by the responsible practices across the supply chain with no use of animal by-products. I lead Melissa India happily for four years now.
2. Tell us what makes Melissa shoes so special? What exactly is Melflex?
The material we use to make the product makes us special and unique. All Melissa products are made from patented material – Melflex. Melflex is our raw material and is made out of plastic. It is 100% recyclable and vegan. It is hypo-allergenic, impermeable and highly flexible. The use of this material allows us to translate the texture and touch into many structural forms. To add to the Melissa experience, a special bubble-gum fragrance is also infused in the products.
3. Melissa shoes being a Brazilian brand, were there any specific roadblocks that you faced during or after the launch in India?
To be honest, it was the opposite. Since the official Melissa launch in 2018 till today, we received so much love from our consumers. Melissa is a premium & desirable brand and we have been fortunate to open our first boutique at DLF Promenade Delhi, one of the best shopping destinations of the country.
4. Indian has a very diverse footwear market. Tell us about your marketing strategies in India and how are they different from the rest of the world?
For sure, India is very different from the world and consumers are price-conscious. So, we do basics rightly and make sure that we have the right product mix, colours mix and category mix as per the preference of consumers. While doing all this, we do 360-degree marketing to communicate with our consumers and ensure a compelling digital presence.
5. Sustainability is the buzz word of the hour. How important is sustainability as a value for Melissa and how do you incorporate it at every level?
Well, we believe that an extraordinary future can only come about through responsibility and attitude. We’ve been putting more and more study, technology, and hands-on work on our production chain to ensure we’re doing our absolute best. We have a commitment to sustainable development on all three fronts of its business: people, operations, and products.
About our achievements, there are many and I am glad to share some of them with you- Our packaging, for example, is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which guarantees its responsible origin. All of our shoes are vegan and made out of 100% recyclable MELFLEX® (the plastic that all Melissas are made of, developed, and manufactured by the company itself).
We are recognised by the Vegan Society, an established UK institution that has provided guidance on creating a cruelty-free world since 1944, and not only are Melissa products fully recyclable, but they are also all made out of recycled material.
We support the fight against the uncontrolled use of plastic – our shoes are made to be reusable, and afterwards, recycled. In some of the countries, we have offered recycling bins at our points of sale, encouraging customers to bring back their used Melissas so we can make sure they find the proper destination for recycling.
As to the future, we have three main goals:
- to fuel our recycling program, making sure that every day we are able to recycle more shoes that are no longer wearable;
- to start a conversation about conscious plastic use and to keep it going;
- and finally, to keep connecting stories and people, while respecting and celebrating diverse expressions of identity. Diversity is key in the world we are hoping to create.So yes, we create fashion out of plastic and that too 100% recyclable.
6. What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who are looking to get into the footwear industryMy advice is to think out of the box, experiment and innovate to reuse and recycle the waste materials and create fashion out of it. May be create something from waste materials and ensure that whatever you do adds up value to make this world a better place.