Owner of Asri Collection

Husen Malruf is one of the owners of Asri Collection in Seminyak, a retail and wholesale store specializing in snakeskin products. The 32-year-old lives in Denpasar with his wife and three children, and shared his day with the Bali Times.

“I can’t count the times I’ve had to explain to people that our bags are made from real snakeskin and not plastic.”

I wake up at 5am and shower. I get up that early so I can take my daughter to pre-school, which starts at 7:30am. I have two sons, as well, but they’re still too young to go to school. One of them is a year old and the other one is three. After I drop my daughter off at school, I drive to Seminyak to open up the shop at 8am.

My partner and I opened up our business 15 years ago. I met him while I was still working in my uncle’s shop that sells handmade accessories, like necklaces and earrings. After my partner and I met, we decided to go into a joint venture to make way for our future. In the meantime, we became friends.

My partner is Balinese, and I’m from Sulawesi. I came to Bali 25 years ago because I have so many family members who run their own businesses here.

When we opened our business, we didn’t initially work with snakeskin leather. We first worked with beaded bags that were made in Denpasar and sold in our store on Jl. Bakung Sari in Kuta.

Seven years ago, however, we decided to switch our business to snakeskin production and design. We noticed a growing trend in the market and an increase in demand for snakeskin products, including bags and shoes.

We get our snakeskin from Java. There, we have workers that strip the skin from the snakes and dry the strips in the sun. It’s a simple way to create snake leather. We have 10 workers. They never get bitten, though, because we don’t work with dangerous snakes like cobras. We work with small water snakes.

We dye the snakeskin with traditional Indonesian celup, which is how we get our 23 different colors of snakeskin leather. Even though we offer exotic colors like hot pink, orange, turquoise, aqua blue and camel, our most popular colors are natural colors.

People who aren’t in the business that come into our shop don’t believe or understand that our products are snakeskin. After we’ve dyed the leather with bright colors and treated it so that the colors don’t fade, the snakeskin looks bright, shiny and almost plastic. I can’t count the times I’ve had to explain to people that our bags are made from real snakeskin and not plastic.

Some people expect snakeskin leather to look like a snake. When it doesn’t, they get confused. That’s one of the reasons why natural colors are more popular. To create a natural look, we take different dyed strips of leather, usually white and black, and stitch them together.

Once in a while, we’ll make python leather products, but only on special order. It’s too expensive to work with python leather on a wholesale basis. It’s rare because pythons are under government protection. We can only get python leather after a python has died naturally. When our customers want python-leather products, we buy the leather from local suppliers.

Seventy percent of our clients are European, mostly from France, Italy and Spain. We constantly change our designs to keep up with the market. In Spain, for instance, snakeskin sandals are popular in the summer.

I think snakeskin has become so popular recently because celebrities use snakeskin products from various high-market brands.

Twenty-five percent of our clients are from other countries, such as Australia and America. Only 5 percent are Indonesian, and even then, they’re mostly from Jakarta.

In Jakarta, snakeskin is really popular. People from Jakarta who’ve traveled to Europe are surprised when they see snakeskin bags and goods available in my shop because they don’t realize that so many of the snakeskin products sold in European boutiques are actually made in Indonesia.

In Indonesia, you can also get the same products – for a better price. We supply shops throughout Bali, in Seminyak, Ubud and Nusa Dua.

Five years ago, we moved our shop to Seminyak because there are more businesspeople in the area. Jl. Seminyak, where our shop is located, is the main street here.

When we switched our business to snakeskin leather seven years ago, we were, if not the first, then one of the first businesses to specialize in producing snakeskin products. Today, though, there’s a lot of competition. There are so many shops in Bali now that sell snakeskin products.

Everything is under control, though. We’ve never had big problems. One of the most difficult challenges I do face in this business, however, is communication. Working with different clients from all over the world is not easy, but I love my line of work.

At the end of the day, I close the shop at 9:30pm. Afterwards, I go home to spend time with my family.

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