In Her Shoes

by Anton D. Javier
Photography by Chino Sardea
03 May 2019

Ms. Nita Chauhan of Vincitore shares how she stepped in the right direction to find success in the finicky world of the footwear industry

You could say that Ms. Nita Chauhan, designer and owner of men’s luxury shoe brand, Vincitore (‘winner’ in Italian), was born into the business of footwear. She recalls, “I started my career in this industry at the young age of 18 because I was the daughter of the boss of a luxury shoe store. Unfortunately, I took this opportunity of working with him very lightly because my mindset then was that retail was a job for individuals who had no other path to pursue in their career.”

However, the operations of her father’s shoe store eventually ceased, followed by his passing. Ms. Chauhan admits that it wasn’t an easy journey, but the situation made her realize that she “was very comfortable working with family run businesses.” The lessons learned along the way eventually made it clear that she was on the right path, proven by Vincitore’s success – it is expecting its third branch to officially open this year.

To find out what her journey was like in the unpredictable world of retail, we spoke to Ms. Chauhan and in the process, learned how to properly purchase a pair of shoes and how to care for them so that they last for as long as they can.

What was the impetus for going back into the retail industry and starting your own brand, Vincitore?
I actually decided to quit retail and move into training. Since I am an associate trainer, I had some time on my hands so I decided to do my MBA in Retail with a scholarship from SRA. I then took up a course in shoe construction and design because it was something I always had an interest in.

Truthfully, I had no intensions of starting a business, but it was my husband who encouraged me to stand on my own two feet and make something of the knowledge and experience I have – and Vincitore was born.

For those unfamiliar with Vincitore, can you tell us more about it?
Vincitore is known to be fine, formal, and funky, which means we have something for every man. We also understand that the Asian foot is unique and shoes made in Europe tend to be long and narrow. Footwear from Vincitore is designed for Asian feet and we carry ready-to-wear footwear, which means our customers can try the style and size, and make an informed decision. Our brand philosophy is to provide affordable luxury and all our shoes are made either in Italy or Spain. Our shoes are also hand stitched, which helps in our humid weather.

Unlike most homegrown fashion brands that are started by young entrepreneurs, you started Vincitore a bit later in your forties. Was it a difficult decision to make?
I believe that starting something with life experience only puts you in a better place. My MBA and the shoe construction and design course helped me better understand what I was getting into and how I can make things work for the Vincitore brand. My passion for men’s shoes, as well as appreciating men who look good from head to toe, also helps. Plus, when it comes to giving advice, experience counts.

Walk us through your experience of running the business so far. Tell us some of the pros and cons of operating a fashion-focused business in Singapore.
Setting up a business in Singapore is easy, but running it is the tough part.

We are all in business to make money and this applies to everyone in the service value chain – from the landlord and the contractor to the staff and even the customers who want the best deals.

Then comes the challenge of establishing your brand. Many like to be billboards for established brands, however Vincitore is for the man who knows what he wants. It’s nice when customers appreciate the quality and styling we offer and come back for repeat purchases.

In the years you’ve run Vincitore, what have you learned about the male customer?
Despite having many years of experience in selling, when it comes to men’s shoes, I admit that my husband sells better than me. Perhaps it’s a ‘man-to-man thing’.

In comparison to women, men buy less; probably one pair a year and if I am lucky, two pairs a year.

Men find it hard to play with colors like navy and burgundy. They also come into the shop only when they are looking for something specific. But if you see them with their better half, then you’ll know that the chance of closing a deal is high!

Have these insights influenced the way you purchase? Being a shoe brand owner, what do you look for in a good pair of shoes?
My biggest advantage (and disadvantage) is that I have large feet, which is also one of the reasons I stock up to size Eur 46 because I know what it feels like not to be able to buy shoes that fit.

The advantage is that my size is the sample size for men’s shoes. I guess I was born with the critical asset of doing this business. I am also always on the lookout for well-made shoes and this is determined by the finer details like finishing, stitching, and craftsmanship. I also look for styling suitable for our Asian market, which tends to be slightly bold. Having a hand-stitched sole is very important and the quality of the leather used helps keep the shoes longer.

What is next for Vincitore?
We are opening a third store at the second level of The Raffles Hotel sometime in the middle of 2019 and will be called The Italian Shoe Store. This store will also house shoe grooming services for hotel guests, as well as external customers.

Other services include repairing of shoes and accessories for both men and women. We will also introduce a ladies collection this year called the Donna collection and you can expect to find a comprehensive range of leather bags, small leather goods, and accessories.

For more information, visit www.vincitore.shoes