A name, a Brand: Mariani
In the steps of the Italian shoe manufacturer
Did you know that Yann Guyader started his professional sports career in the Mariani Team in the middle of the 2000’s? As a matter of fact, he still has his gift of languages, just as Davide! Like Yann, a couple of French skaters contribute or have contributed to the development of the Mariani molded shoes, giving advice, explaining their feelings...
The Mariani firm was born in 1997. At that time, the only molded skates come from the Netherlands (Viking brand) or from Australia (Bont, still standing). Most of the rest of the inline skates are standard and still basic. Davide Mariani is a famous skater, known in France for his appearances at Rennes sur Roulettes (already!) But his career comes to an end and he’s got to think about his professional future: he becomes an employee in a pharmaceutical firm.
“It didn’t last long: I was bored and I preferred to change tack... and manufacturing molded shoes came almost naturally. It was also a means for me to come back to the skating world!”
It’s been lasting for 14 years now. The firm quickly developed and it is now thriving.
“We are five to work, four Italians and one Ghanaian, and each one’s got his place. It’s not easy to recruit, as manual jobs don’t attract young people anymore: and yet I can tell you that it’s far from being assembly-line work!”
Now if anyone’s interested...! However, Davide has one golden rule, that of never recruiting skaters or ex-skaters. And this for a simple reason, industrial espionage: “There are too many risks that someone tries to copy all the accumulated know-how...” he confesses.
Brand new 400 m² premises, and waiting for a new website.
Industrial espionage, know-how: here are words which give the impression of entering the world of big firms! Obviously the skating industry doesn’t (yet) measure up to the car industry, for example. Although somehow, conceiving and making molded shoes for speed skating is not that different. Thus Mariani had to increase its work space, while waiting for the launching of the new website:
“We work in brand new 400 m² premises in the suburb of Milan.”
The shoes that you can see on the stands, or that you can wear on your feet, are the culmination of considerable hours of work and years of development.
“I always try to be ready to listen to the clients and to their needs. As a former skater, I also have my feelings, and they count. Then, as for the design of the shoe, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Formula One: what’s important for me is that the shoes look sober and elegant.”
The impact of the crisis
The Mariani models are ones of the most expansive on the market. Some will say that it’s the price to pay for quality. It’s more complex than that:
“I have to face a constant fluctuation of the cost of raw material, a fluctuation that’s quite increasing nowadays, Davide explains. But I only want to work with Italian material in order to control its quality as much as possible. Thus I have to find the fairest final price...”
Indeed it’s a hard exercise at a time when the clients’ salaries tend to stagnate. Product quality, these are not empty words:
“None of the products get out of the firm without having been in my hands. It’s a question of respect.”
Davide is still close to competition, very involved in how his shoes will respond to the feet of the skaters. What makes him react furiously too is the not-so-legal competition with molded shoes manufacturers who are unscrupulous about the Italian tax.
Skaters help him go ahead
He is full of praises for the skaters who help him go ahead. For ten years, between 1998 and 2008, he had collaborated with Yann Guyader, particularly when the latter scoured Europe with the eponymous Team, together with Stefano Galliazzo and Garikoitz Lerga.
“Yann helped us to perfect a vacuum pack production technique enabling to hug the form of the foot even better. His diagnoses and remarks were very precise. And even when his feet were hurting, he would still do the tests!”
Other French take part in this return of favor, like for example Gwendal Le Pivert: the sprinter has been skating with prototypes for a year now. This phase of product development is obviously essential to go ahead: no evolution without tests! A stagnating manufacturer is condemned to decline. This is certainly not the case of Mariani who produces 1.500 pairs of skates per year.
Children are the future!
Recently, Mariani launched models for kids, and they meet a great success. The skates are green, pink or blue. These new models are particularly reinforced at the ankle to secure a better support. Children are the future! And future goes through diversification too.
“After five years of research and development, I feel ready to pass the mark and start the production of short track shoes, Davide explains. We have done numerous tries and the last ones are conclusive!”
Let’s conclude with a flash-news: soon you’ll have the opportunity to skate the long race with Mariani shoes on. Indeed, it’s been a year that Davide has been devised an up-market product... New adventures are soon to come for the brand. And believe it or not, but Davide is already aware of what he’s letting himself in for.
Useful LinksBy Vincent Esnault
Translated by Close Yr E’s