Jakarta. The recently opened Antony Morato boutique, at Pacific Place shopping mall in South Jakarta, exudes an air of elegance through its dimly lit interior and modern furniture.
But the range of menswear displayed — from tailored suits and sporty zip-up jackets to relaxed t-shirts and snazzy sneakers — suggests that the Italian brand eschews the formal aesthetic commonly associated with men’s fashion for one that responds to the zeitgeist.
“We are mainly targeting this brand at young professionals. Those who are daring and looking for something trendy and exciting to wear,” explains Denny Utomo, who brought Antony Morato to Indonesia, along with more international lifestyle brands which are set to debut in the coming months.
Introducing these brands to Indonesian customers is part of his expansion strategy for Utomo Corp., a group of companies established by his family in the late 1970s. Even though it first started as a trading company, Utomo Corp. grew rapidly in the Indonesian market. It has since diversified its portfolio of business units to include automotive, food and beverage, entertainment as well as coal mining and trading, among others.
At only 32 years old, Denny is now taking the role of chief executive at Utomo Corp., overseeing many different facets of the company’s operations. It was he who decided to open the lifestyle division at the company, after observing the increasing opportunity for this particular field in Indonesia.
“Indonesia’s GDP is constantly growing, and Jakarta especially is becoming more metropolitan. But compared to Singapore or Hong Kong, I think most people here are still not that expressive when it comes to fashion,” he says.
Starting his new division with this rationale, Denny saw a promising segment in Indonesia’s fashion market which was still rarely touched by business players here — affordable luxury.
“The most prominent fashion brands in the country until now are either the lower-priced ones, such as fast-fashion brands, or the super-luxury brands at the other end of the spectrum. But there is still a gap in between, so we think there is a great market to be found there,” he observes.
Antony Morato, for one, fits perfectly the profile of an affordable luxury brand, as envisioned by Denny. Established by Lello Caldarelli in 2007, the menswear brand deftly combines the codes of Italian style with a cosmopolitan attitude. This design direction has resulted in ready-to-wear collections that speaks to modern urban men — just like Denny himself, one might argue. On a recent occasion, for instance, he donned a blue-and-white checked blazer over a white shirt, combined with sleek pants and high-top sneakers, all by Antony Morato.
“While I was researching various fashion brands, deciding which one to bring to Indonesia, it was Antony Morato that I could instantly relate to. As I entered one of their stores abroad, I could easily pick 80 percent of the collection for myself to wear,” Denny recalls. “It is very trendy and fashionable with signature Italian cut, thus perfect for Indonesians.”
Besides, Antony Morato is also one of the fastest growing fashion brands in Europe. “Even amid crisis in the continent, a time when the sales figures of other brands are decreasing, Antony Morato is experiencing a double-digit growth and expanding to more cities,” Denny says.
The young businessman, who describes his personal style as something that vacillates between casual and elegant, admits that previously he often wore suits to the office every day.
“But then I realized that the weather in Indonesia is hot, so now I mainly opt for looks that are relaxed yet still elegant. Sometimes sporty, too,” he says.
Redefining a family legacy
Not long after he graduated from university in Wisconsin, Denny returned to Indonesia in 2004 and was asked to join his family business. At the time, he was stationed at the head office, in which he spent three years before ultimately being appointed as chief executive.
In this new position, Denny masterminded various changes in the company right from the very beginning.
“Utomo Corp. is not the original name but the company was initiated by my own father. But as I plan to make the company more global and fashionable, it has to be easier to pronounce,” he explains. “Because I’m an Utomo myself, I believe Utomo Corp. is suitable as our brand. We want to have a name with a meaning behind it, and that is why I chose my family name.”
Simultaneously, he also aims to consolidate the many divisions of the company under one brand. “I want to see all of our businesses combined into one family one day. This process is still in the works, but we have started our branding effort,” Denny says.
His eagle-eyed determination to propel Utomo Corp. forward also led Denny to spearhead the aforementioned lifestyle division. He is taking this expansion very seriously, getting heavily involved in every single stage.
“I oversee almost everything. Yes, we have all the managers and directors working here, but when it comes to a new business, I’d like to be involved from zero,” Denny says, adding that in the case of Antony Morato, he did everything from making the deal with the brand to picking the types of products they would bring to the Indonesian market
In addition to the Italian label, Utomo Corp. is also going to establish the presence of United Nude — a European shoe brand for women and men that is known for its innovative architectural designs — in Jakarta later this year. “We will showcase it in Plaza Indonesia starting in August for two months,” Denny says. “Then, we will have more brands after that, too.”
In order to introduce these new names to Indonesian fashion customers, Denny explains that his company will employ a variety of strategies, from organizing events to collaborating with local actors and actresses.
“But we are going to build our branding by inviting people to come to events in our stores,” he says.
Even though his work currently revolves around the business of lifestyle, Denny never strays his attention on the positive economic development happening around him. He applauds, for example, the ever-advancing transportation infrastructure of Jakarta, citing Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s current effort to build an integrated MRT system throughout the city.
“If you take a look at Singapore, people there take the MRT to go around the city. They don’t have to spend their money on buying cars, so instead, they will invest in a better appearance for themselves, from head to toe,” he says, hoping that a similar phenomenon will also take place in Jakarta.
A ride to success
Utomo Corp also now focuses on the automotive industry by becoming the sole partner and distributor of numerous international brands in Indonesia. Two of the most prominent names are Italian motorcycle manufacturers Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.
“Aprilia mainly produces two-wheel sport motorcycles,” Denny explains. The company is famous for its large sport bikes that are used in various motorcycle racing competitions, from Grand Prix World Championship to Superbike World Championship
Meanwhile, Moto Guzzi is notable for motorbikes with stylish design and innovative flair. Founded in 1921, it is one of the oldest European manufacturers that is still active.
Not so surprisingly, Denny likes to spend his free time riding his own motorcycles. “I like to tour with friends from the motorcycle club,” he says, noting that he has a penchant for these two Italian brands.
As he sets his sights on the future of Utomo Corp., Denny aims to take the company to a new direction in the future.
“Now that we’ve been dealing with a lot of international brands, I think it’s time for us to develop our own fashion brand,” he says, explaining that he plans to work with a local designer and sell the label locally and internationally. Denny is also looking into new opportunities in the field of agriculture. “We are still analyzing and doing the feasibility studies for this,” he says.