Salmon Skin Deep
When I first heard mention of Laura Chicurel and her range of Salmon Skin leather products I have to admit that I did a double take.
“Salmon skin? Like the fish?”
Just like any diligent journalist would do, I threw out my research nets and trawled the web in an effort to learn a little more about the product. Information was sparse and so I decided to get what I needed straight from the mouth of the creator.
I met with Laura , not long after she delivered an impressive talk about her product at a women’s network seminar and the first thing I noticed about this attractive and confident young woman from Chile was that she believed in her product and was clearly in it for the long haul. This was no quick-rich, fad in a bag proposal. Laura is a woman who has done her homework and knows her market well.
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“Salmon skin is something that has been used in South America for some time now – particularly in Chile (the second biggest exporter of salmon of the world) – and it is a longer lasting and more durable material than traditional cow leather. It is also a way of utilising the natural waste that comes from salmon farming and putting it to good use.”
Fortunately, Laura had brought along a number of items with her – handbags, belts, purses, wallets – all impressively designed and very attractive on the eye. Naturally, the first thing I did was pick one of the items up and sniffed for an odour.
“That’s what everyone does at some point but you don’t need to worry; the way the skin is treated ensures that there is no odour. You can’t smell a thing.”
She was right and yet the look of the leather immediately tells you that it comes from a fish; the pattern gives this away immediately.
“That’s what makes this product so unique. The pattern is distinctive, the material is resilient and as a consequence the product is a fresh option on the market. I saw the potential and that’s why I went with it.”
Which led me on to my next question: how a young South American girl with the looks and grace of someone who could quite easily have gone into modelling fashion-wear actually got into the business of creating and designing it?
“I consider myself an entrepreneur; I’ve always had the sense of going with my instincts and being prepared to take a few risks for something I believed in. It hasn’t been easy. I have had many knock backs and quite a few challenges to overcome in the last few years but just like anyone with an entrepreneurial outlook, I can see the bigger picture and that is what I am always aiming for.
“When I first mentioned my idea to people I have to say that the reaction wasn’t one filled with enthusiasm and even my husband – who has been my strongest supporter – was a little dubious at first. But I’m a stubborn woman and I won’t turn in the face of criticism.
“I even took my product on television – laying my idea bare on the British show Dragon’s Den – and had to endure a savage and rather negative mauling from the five “dragons.” But rather than turn me off it actually made me stronger and more determined.”
Undeterred, Laura ventured out to Canary Wharf and conducted a series of market research exercises in an effort to gauge what people wanted.
“I knew there was a market for my products out there. I just didn’t know exactly where to find it. Market research is such an important part of the business model. I would urge anyone looking to start their own company to know their product but also familiarise themselves as well as they can with the people they intend to sell that product to.
“For me, it was the best way to find success.”
And found it she has because Chicurela’s products have now been displayed at a variety of fashion shows across Europe and when I met with Laura she had just returned from a successful catwalk in Madrid.
“The Spanish show was very successful and I think there is a definite market for this new style of leather. Naturally it’s not just about the material but also the design of the product, and from the reaction I have received so far I would have to say that we appear to have got the look and feel of the range exactly right.”
In all Chicurela is launching with 3 collections and all the products come in exotic salmon skin leather and feature gold and silver plated accessories, with fine Italian silk interiors.
The collections cater for sporty (Alegra), classic (Luna) and evening (Gala) designs and although they would be appealing to women across a variety of generations, Laura’s real target audience is 30-45 year olds.
On top of this she is also developing a collection that is aimed exclusively for executive, professional women.
“I see my product having universal appeal and because of the durability and flexibility of the material, we are really only limited by the imagination of our designers. I-pod holders, clothes, men’s products, furniture; for us the possibilities are endless and we will be looking to exploit every avenue.
“Salmon skin has an appeal that puts it above other leathers because not only does it lend itself to conventional leather designs, it is also Eco-friendly and has a great texture to work with.”
From my time spent with Laura it became quickly evident to me that she has a passion and desire to succeed in her business, coupled with the intelligence to realise that achieving that success is not just about good luck (although that can help) but also hard work and commitment.
“It is difficult to imagine anyone reaching the pinnacle of their chosen achievement through good fortune alone. Planning, effort, force of will and self-belief are all part of the make-up of any credible entrepreneur and if you have a great product to go with that – as I believe I have – then the only real obstacles you will ever face are those of your own making.”
If you would like more information on Laura Chicurel or her products then please visit her website at www.chicurela.com and find out why she maintains that “beauty is salmon skin deep”.
George R Vaughan