The former CEO of Bally Southeast Asia and Oceania is a colourful personality that is hard to describe in one word, some would even say, in a lot of words.
Aldo Lipari was born in Somalia to an Italian father and African mother. He grew up in Italy and joined the navy’s elite commando unit, the Arditi Incursori Marina. Professing to spend a lot in fashion during his time with the military, he left for London thereafter and found a job dressing display mannequins before becoming a store manager.
But London was only meant to be a pit stop in the life of this soon-to-be global traveller. His original intent was to return to his land of youth, Somalia, and set up business there. Unfortunately, what the heart wants, sometimes do not always fall into place in reality and Aldo lost his investment and headed back to Europe.
In Italy, he answered the call of fashion at Giorgio Armani and Gucci, and quickly established himself as the man behind the styling of the world’s most influential people. From politicians to businessmen to celebrities, countless fittings, both symmetrical and awkward, has gone through the hands and eyes of Aldo Lipari.
When Bally came calling, he was ready to helm the brand’s regional business in the Far East, shuttling between Australia and Singapore.
After more than a decade at the top, he made a decision to leave and start-up his own fashion label in 2015, aptly named, ALODD, and began making ‘Italian handmade shoes for Asian fit’.
Because, as it implies, there is ALODD to Aldo Lipari, and ALODD to men’s fashion that resides outside the high and mighty Italian houses, one that actually serves “Quality, Style and Comfort”, which is at the forefront of the ALODD brand, and the heart of the man behind it.
Golf Vacations had a conversation with Lipari and found out so much, well, ALODD more.
GV: Why are Asian feet so hard to fit?
AL: Asia fitting is not very hard to understand. To be honest, I have the same foot as Asians, which is that 70 per cent of the male population here has a high arch and wide feet so it has always been my need as well, to find proper fitting.
Tell us about your tagline, “In pursuit of Quality, Style and Comfort”.
You need to have great quality to make shoes, style and design matters as well, and at the same time, it needs to be comfortable. That’s why fitting is a major point where I distinguish my shoes.
Being here in SEA, my clientele is 80 per cent Asian, out of 100, 70 per cent are Singaporeans and the rest are all Southeast Asians. My second most important clients outside of Singapore are Indonesians.
You are currently retailing at Takashimaya Shopping Centre but you have also an online store, right?
Most of my customers come to Takashimaya to buy the shoes and from the region, they fly to Singapore, but it was exciting to see people start buying them online. I’m working on growing my e-commerce transactions now although the brick and mortar store is still stronger, especially for a new brand like mine. My website is really more for returning customers after they’ve tried on and know what fits them, they use the website to buy.
One amazing thing we notice is that the pricing of the shoes is very competitive when compared to the luxury brands. How do you keep it so affordable?
First of all, I have suppliers who are similar to major luxury brands. I’ve worked in this business for more than 30 years and so I know many suppliers and they make the shoes for me. The other thing is that I don’t have high-cost factors in terms of the way I manage the business.
To explain, I’m more focused on the product and, as much as possible, do business directly with the customer. I don’t have additional cost in terms of media placement, glitter and glamour and I don’t intend to reverse those costs to the final client.
How do you carry on operationally, on such a lean structure?
I’ve had more than 30 years of experience in this business and in the last 11, I was managing the regional business of a major luxury retail brand. I know the inside out and the needs. My structure is very streamlined. My experience has seen me start from the bottom, all the way through to CEO so I have experience in all the positions and I outsource the other work that needs to be done, so I don’t need a huge headcount. It’s the way you forecast the medium and long term rather than on short term returns. That’s the way I manage my business.
Who designs your shoes?
I have a designer in a studio who does the job but I give the feedback in terms of how I want the shoes to be made, which is the same job as what a creative director does in the world of fashion. Any brand’s creative director does not design the shoes himself so that’s how these things work.
However, I am involved in the entire life cycle of the shoe, I test the shoes personally and if it doesn’t fit my requirement, it doesn’t go into production. It’s not only quality and style, but it is also comfort and that is something that I am adamant about.
What does ALODD stand for?
Alodd is an anachronism of the many things I do in my life. My background is diverse – my father was Italian, my mother Somalian and while I was born and grew up in Somalia, I lived in many countries – Australia, UK, here in Singapore – but I spend most of my life in Italy. I consider myself rich in culture and experience, and therefore Alodd brings products that suit any kind of man in any culture.
Is fashion still dictated by the West then?
I do not like to dictate fashion or style. We are made differently and each one must respect the style, habits and culture of every nation. Southeast Asia has a different style from Europe and America has a different style from Australia, but this doesn’t mean one is right, the other is wrong. It’s just that we are different and this difference is something that can enrich us.
So, the East then?
I don’t exclude collaboration with other cultures in terms of designs, colours, accessories. I’ve noticed lately fashion brands moving towards this direction, you can see many Asian models featuring in many advertisements, which before you never used to see. You see, let’s say, African-background models, stepping in. We are all made differently and I’m between the two and I’m pleased to see this. Multiculturalism is something that I really like.
Tell us about this shoe on your website that is called ‘California’.
To be honest, it’s called California construction but it is wrongly termed. The correct name is Montebello. It has nothing to do with America, it is just the Italian culture, they like to have this kind of name like many Asians like to have English names. It is wrong to call it California, it is called Montebello and it is 100 per cent Italian.
What is unique about the Montebello then?
I think it is a genius, the man who created the Montebello, which comes from baby shoes. Baby footwear is made in one single piece and it is super soft.
What he did apply, in the end, to make it simple, is the sole. So, wearing the Montebello shoes is like wearing slippers, or baby shoes, and they are the most comfortable shoes on earth. They are handmade using selected calf leather, which means not many can be made at a time, and it takes a long process to make each one.
Are your shoes 100 per cent handmade?
It is partially handmade so the stitching still goes through the machine. I truly believe in technology and for consistent precision production, it does a better job. However, the human being always gives the best final touch but technology helps the human create the right products, so it’s a combination of the two. The final touch, the finishing, the small details, however, will always be done by hand.
Is the word ‘Luxury’ being abused in the context of modern marketing spiel?
Yes, I find this word, ‘Luxury’, is being overused. For me, luxury is to be yourself. Because I want to put the client at the centre at all times and to do that, I give him the tools in order for him to perform and to satisfy his needs and his job.
But I do take two steps back so I do not dictate, so the client can choose one style or another, any other colours and make any kind of combination and matching colours. There are some customisation in my shoes and I do made-to-order but I don’t charge any loading for this apart from maybe delivery if it is too far away or cost too high.
What is the future of ALODD?
My goal is to build a company that does not reverse the cost to the client. My client needs to pay for quality, style and comfort so it needs to be the right price. If it is high, then it is because it deserves to be high but it’s not because we bill extra cost in them due to company structure.
I overlook everything in my company and am in constant communication with my clients and I always reply. I have different apps for different countries – WeChat, Line, WhatsApp – I use apps and social media in order to communicate with my clients wherever they are and they will always be able to find me and share with me their ALODD discoveries or what they want to further enhance their ALODD experiences.