Mario Gierotto is the Creative Director of sks, Bali’s fashion and design Mecca.
My life is fantastic. I have a family: My amazing wife Dayu and two gorgeous kids, Rosa and Leone. Bali has good food, beautiful sunsets and it recharges your spirit. It also isn’t so isolated — I still have international people around me to share what’s going on around the world. And I have a chance to do charity work that’s close to my heart.
We’ve seen your store, sks, establish itself as an innovative retailer over the last year. Is business good?
As the Indonesians say: cukup untuk makan. We are able to put food on the table. It’s exciting to be able to bring worldwide design products to Bali; and, fortunately, it seems that other people find it exciting as well!
You combine fashion, interior and graphic design in the store. Is this a reflection of your passions?
Absolutely, yes. I’m a curious person and I really enjoy what I do. I always try to understand better what’s going on in the design world. Every year I attend Salone del Mobile in Milan and Design Week in Tokyo to discover new ideas and products from the most important designers in the industry, as well as young people who are up-and-coming. From there I often place orders for sks. I’ve worked in the design industry for a long time, and now I feel like I’ve made my dream of bringing iconic original pieces to Bali a reality.
What else gets you out of bed in the morning?
My kids at five o’clock in the morning, every morning! Early mornings in Bali are the best. I feel that it’s really quality time.
Tell us a bit about how and where you grew up and what your parents were like.
I was born in 1957 in Turin, Italy, which explains why I’m crazy for Juventus! My father was super severe and my mother super sweet. As a result, I’m a mix of both of them. They gave me a foundation to survive in life on my own. They also taught me the real value of life. For this I’m really thankful. I worked from the time I was 14 and went to school in the evening. Turin was a small city back then, with only Fiat as an industry. My character is more creative and curious, so at 16 years old I left to look for something more exciting in Milan. I started to work as an assistant to an incredible man selling Gianfranco Ferre’s first fur collections. This man was stylish, clever and very polished, and he taught me everything I needed to know about selling. At 18, I got my drivers licence and was given a few clients to follow on my own.
What happened in your early 20s?
I sold fur coats until I was 21, at which point I realised I was too young to live a life of just making money. In my heart I was a hippy, so one day I decided to stop working and found my way to Asia. I landed in India in 1978 by way of Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That trip really changed my life from being on a successful career path to being a citizen of the world.
sks seems ripe for an expansion into different markets. Any plans to open in other countries?
We’re always thinking about this. We have a lot of requests to open sks in other markets, so we are constantly considering how to duplicate the model elsewhere.
Which part of your work do you most enjoy?
There are two parts of my job that I really enjoy: I love researching and finding new products from around the world. I also love showcasing young designers and their talent at sks.
Do you design (the men’s clothes) yourself?
Yes, I design the men’s collection for sks and am very involved with the small details. The collection always reflects something unexpected. My character is quite precise, but I love a bit of a twist. I don’t like to take fashion too seriously.
You’ve recently become an Indonesian citizen. How will that change things for you?
Becoming an Indonesian citizen was a huge gift to my Balinese family. My life and my family are in Bali, so this was a natural progression for me. I really love this country. I respect the religion, beauty and energy of Bali, not as an expat, but as a citizen who considers Bali home. Things here are changing rapidly, but I wish we could preserve these fundamental feelings that Bali evokes for my children when they are starting their own families.