Lulu e Marlene, a women's footwear and accessories store, opened about a year ago in Cusano Milanino, a small town in the outskirts of Milan. The owners are two sisters, Antonella and Anna Sgorlon, who were looking for a change in their lives. Despite the fact that both suffer from a serious fashion addiction, Anna Sgorlon also offers business-sense, drawing from her experience in running a store with her husband called "Gli Occhiali di Angelo", an unconventional eyewear shop located in the same town. Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini.

What are the current bestsellers and why?
We mostly sell high-heeled shoes as well as biker boots and ballerinas that have a special look. We never offer plain styles. We choose styles with a distinctive touch, a hue, a detail or a print that one can never find in other stores nearby. Or we simply offer the opposite of basic models that one can find at any ordinary footwear store. When we opened our store we thought: since one has to pay a fee to enter Milan, why not offer some fancy products nearby? And people profited from that; our clients are mostly women from 16 to 60, who come from Cusano and nearby locations because they don't want to drive to the city but still want to have a look around and buy something unique.

Generally our bestsellers are brands like Fornarina, Giancarlo Paoli, Tosca Blu, SGN, LeBabe - all of which are Italian brands that are made in Italy. We strongly believe that quality is a key element and it’s where we place our focus. We also sell some made-to-measure shoes by an artisan, Daniel G, who does products people can’t usually find in regular stores - like a size 34 with high heels - you could only find this size in children’s store, but with low heels. Hector, a highly copied brand right now, is also selling well - it’s made in Riccione and inspired by Indian-style fringed boots. Duxion has also been popular.

Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
When an item is very special, they buy by impulse. There was a Fornarina pump covered with lace that sold like crazy! It's like when you fall in love – you just have to have it. Of course the brand factor is important but products have to look great. If there's no consistency between brands, quality and product, then there's no success.

Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends? How important is communication with regular customers?
We follow our taste and some agents' suggestions - not all of them, of course. Some only follow their own aims, but some can give you really good tips. Then we visit fairs like Micam for footwear and Macef for bijoux and accessories. Then Mido for eyewear since we plan to start carrying some eyewear, but only vintage models and special ones - a bit like Antonella does at "Gli Occhiali di Angelo". We communicate mostly through our facebook page where we post new information everyday with photos of new shoes that we offer in the store. People friend us to stay updated, so it’s really helpful.

Anna and Antonella Sgorlon suffer from a serious fashion addiction.
Anna and Antonella Sgorlon suffer from a serious fashion addiction.

What do your collections for spring/summer look like?
Color will be the main highlight of what we will offer. Heels are a true must, again, as well as ballerinas with leather and glitter effects. Plexiglass bijoux, earrings and bracelets will also be very cool.

Have you added any new labels to your assortment?
We added a new label, Play 39. These shoes have very cool heels, not super-high, but aggressive. There’s also a new brand of accessories that can be applied to shoes called Heel Condoms, a Puerto Rican brand of small elements that can be applied onto heels. This way one can add color, feathers or decor elements to a basic model with a high heel. They cost about €25-€45 and can totally change the image of a shoe.

How does your store stand apart from others?
We always search for products that are different and people often say that the array is almost “too special,” which we take as a compliment. We want to be exceptional and offer unique products. We also want people to get inside and feel free to try something on and leave if they don't feel convinced. We don't want them to feel obligated.

What do you like about your customers?
We like that they are always determined. Entering our store, they already make their choice in looking for extraordinary and elaborate products.

How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
It is totally important. Our fuchsia interiors are impressive and our silver sofa, maybe - as we said - too impressive, but if you don't look special, you’re anonymous. In a market situation like the present one, it will always be more important to stand out from the crowd with a very distinct image and personality.

Lulu e Marlene, Via Matteotti 39, I-20095 Cusano Milanino (Milan), Italy, tel. +39 02 66409789
Lulu e Marlene, Via Matteotti 39, I-20095 Cusano Milanino (Milan), Italy, tel. +39 02 66409789