Business Talks: Alessandro Maria Ferreri, CEO of The Style Gate

The talented executive discusses with CPP-LUXURY.COM about the current state of the fashion industry and the reaction of consumers to the recent blockbuster designers such as Demna Gvasalia and Virgil Abloh

With major career setbacks or dropping off the radar altogether, the fall of many creative directors and CEO’s has been making headlines. In the face of this comes a group of smart new individuals who have been able to make a difference simply by keeping an ear to the ground, thinking out of the box and adapting their strategies accordingly.

Such is the case of Alessandro Maria Ferreri, a top manager with over 20 years of experience working for large brands. Over the past two years, he has been dedicating himself as a Strategic Advisor (with strong operative role) to luxury brands thus achieving great success where many have failed.

CPP: Buy-now-wear-now, see-now-buy-now, haute couture, ready to wear, affordable luxury, contemporary lines: How do the modern consumers react to such a complicated new fashion vocabulary?

AMF: In fact, this intricate lexicon has only to be mastered by us, the “men in the control room”, as final consumers should just enjoy the positive effects of the difficult but hopefully efficient itinerary of a luxury object from the designer’s brain to the point of sale. Our goal is to make the whole supply chain smooth, secure and quick enough in order to arrive on time in the market and satisfy a customer need that we have been, in the meanwhile, creating. It is a big responsibility and a very crucial role as modern customers are smart, demanding, fast, spoiled and want the best return on their investment in luxury. Fashion brands have, nowadays, to meet a very complex array of market necessities, from price point to occasion of use, from prompt deliveries to exchange/return possibilities, from new consumer habits to maintaining a high desirability level of the brand. The words mentioned in your question are in fact the answers to such market necessities.

CPP: Nowadays it seems that not all brands are developing these capabilities and the luxury offering is divided between winners like Gucci or Dior and many other brands who are, unfortunately, still swimming in dangerous waters. Is there a recipe for success?

AMF: Creativity is the first fundamental asset followed closely by the supply chain. From a creative point of view, we are in a very specific historical moment that Derek Thompson would define as “a point where the customer is bored of what he has but insecure about what he further wants”: a sort of “neo-phobia” meeting “neo-philia”. The ones who master this are Demna Gvasalia of Vetements and Virgil Abloh of Off-White. They timely had the perception that the fashion world was heading to a downfall point in terms of consumer interest and that a “new religion” had to be promoted. By mixing underground culture to Margiela archives and by topping everything with oversized and deconstructed shapes, both Demna and Virgil created such a strong imaginary to become global and cultural points of reference: they sharply met what Raymond Loewy was defining as “the most advanced, yet acceptable”.

CPP: When it comes to the “supply chain”, expectations are very high, including the timing of availability to consumers

AMF: Exactly! Creativity is in fact useless if a very efficient engine does not create the retail miracle. The CEO of Gucci has recently released a very interesting point of view on this subject, by explaining how designers have to worry about creating and not about numbers. In 2016 there have been 415 Mln of luxury consumers in the world, spending more than 860 Bln of euro. In 2023 we will probably have around 500 Mln luxury consumers spending 1.185 Bln of euros. In order to meet such a crazy demand, it is quite clear that just “being creative” is not enough. Companies have to be well organized in manufacturing and logistics (which involves necessarily an “omnichannel” approach) together with being super smart in marketing and customer engagement.

CPP: How ready are the modern entrepreneurs to understand these important needs and, above all, how reactive are they from a timing point of view?

AMF: Until a few months ago, I would have said (and I actually did) that brands in general were having a lot of difficulties in re-setting their strategies and their procedures, not always due to lack of budget to invest but, in many cases, due to old business models hard to dismantle. Today, on the contrary, am surprisingly very positive in what I see happening in the market given that even very conservative family-run companies are showing a strong desire to change.

My daily job is in fact to assist and help such change: brands finally understood that they could have an interaction and a real conversation directly with the final customer, without having to go 100% through retailers. The use of digital is helping a lot such direct connection but luxury houses are now using in a more smart way also their brick & mortar stores in order to learn more about their costumers shopping attitudes and, consequently, in order to create or adapt a correct strategy to such new demands.

CPP: So it seems your company, The Style Gate, is acting as a “doctor” in this processes…

AMF: There are many different ‘illnesses’ out there and that ‘patients’ are not always willing to fully cooperate (as they first need to realize that they are sick), but a good ‘doctor’ is the one whose patients are recovering in a reasonable amount of time as the right cure is applied. What I can admit is that the clients I follow are getting better and better every day and this is not only due to my assistance but also and definitely to a strong will, from the brands side, to recover.

Alessandro Maria Ferreri, The Style Gate