Created with the idea of offering its customers shoes, bags and accessories that incorporate a unique and sophisticated design, the products of Carmen Steffens are developed in line with the latest national and international trends. Here, RLI sits down with company Founder Mario Spaniol to discuss the brands origins and where it plans to go in the coming months and years.

The brand, named as a tribute from Founder Mario Spaniol to his mother, Carmen Steffens, originated in the city of Franca, in the northeastern region of São Paulo in 1993. It has grown considerably in this time and is now part of the Couroquímica group, which has its own tannery – guaranteeing the quality and speed in the manufacture of its products.

Today the company is one of the most prestigious and admired brands in the footwear, clothing and accessories sectors, with endorsements from the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Eva Longoria. The brand operates 560 stores in 19 countries, and while most of its stores are in Latin America, there are also locations in the US, Mexico and France.

The products of Carmen Steffens are all created with high quality and differentiated leather, exclusively in their own factory, guaranteeing quality for its consumers. The company’s mission is to be the first truly Brazilian brand to be recognised worldwide. The retail sector in Brazil has been in somewhat of a crisis in recent years, but has begun to turn itself around.

“Retail has been very challenging during this period, but we have a powerful brand with over 25 years of history, and clients from the upper class who are still purchasing shoes, handbags, apparel and accessories from our company, however I have recognised we have had to work harder than ever to keep growing in this period,” explains Carmen Steffens Founder Mario Spaniol.

In 2015 the company’s second brand called CS Club was launched, offering more affordable and more basic items in terms of design aesthetic. This additional offering was key in keeping the company growing in these difficult times, and they have now opened 87 CS Club stores to date. Carmen Steffens has this year opened a new flagship on Oscar Freire Street in São Paulo, whilst CS Club has launched a new store as well.

“Looking forward we are excited to enter the Asian market, along with expansion in the US, initially in Florida, California and Texas. In Brazil we plan to open at least 50 new boutiques of our brands. We are also expanding in Europe in Portugal and Spain, while other countries we are going to grow in internationally are Colombia and Mexico,” says Spaniol.

With a brand known on a global level, the company still continues to push the boundaries, and it does this by compiling global research of current and upcoming trends in the market, remaining creative, ensuring they have the best and most-up-to-date equipment at its factories and by employing the best possible team at every sector in order to keep the company at the cutting edge. Carmen Steffens has an offer that translates well across international borders, as they have been exporting their products internationally for about 25 years. They still study carefully the markets they enter, and where they do not believe they are a good fit, they prefer not to have a presence. The brand today still has its unique Brazilian DNA, but they have globalised their style predominantly over the years.

Spaniol feels that social media is extremely important and they are currently working hard on growing with the new trends of internet marketing and finding the best ways to reach potential customers, whilst also maintaining the best possible customer experience at its websites, particularly on mobile platforms.

So why does Spaniol feel customers have remained loyal, and what is it that has kept the brand on top for the past quarter of a century?

“Customers remain loyal when they try our products and feel the quality of what we produce, along with the fitting of our shoes that are very comfortable and the unique customer experience they receive in our boutiques. As for our success, that is down to our unique DNA and what we deliver to our customers when comparing our price point to European luxury brands around the world.”

The ethos of Carmen Steffens is to create unique Brazilian designs not found in any other brand, delivering a level of exclusivity, beauty and quality to its customers that will satisfy them.

“With the knowledge we have gained from the difficult times and the fact we had to improve in so many areas, we are more prepared to perform at an even higher level now that the economy is showing signs of changing for the better. We have a chance to offer fantastic prices in so many markets that we believe we will grow significantly internationally in the coming years,” concludes Spaniol.