Luxury business digest with expert analysis by Alessandro Maria Ferreri (December 2017)

Luxury fashion consultant Alessandro Maria Ferreri provides CPP-LUXURY.COM with his expert insights on the selection of the most important news of the month

The crisis of mens formalwear: this week Boglioli will fire 50 employees out of 180 people employed in the company.

AMF: Boglioli, Caruso, Brioni, but also Canali, Pal Zileri, Isaia and Corneliani. The whole “mens formal” segment is unfortunately going through tough times. Some of them, like Zegna or Berluti, have such strong and constant investments going on (on icon designers, on product extensions like sneakers, on younger and casual collections) that are able to keep intact their brand awareness and tradition, and soften eventual downs of the market, enlarging their consumer target and playing often on an omnichannel scenario.

Some others, on the contrary, do not have the vision, the funds and the heritage to keep high their brand impact in the very diffficult segment of mens formal wear. The world has become casual: many offices already allowed employees to wear suits without ties or V-neck blue sweaters instead of a blazer. A very small group of men still dress up to go to theater or for a cocktail and, generally, many events and public get-together’s no longer require an “elegant attire”, allowing a more democratic “casual chic or smart casual” dress code (which often is perceived like “come as you want”).

The recipe to react to such a strong change in the habits of the modern men is difficult to find to the point that even Gucci or Dolce’s “men made to measure” sections are suffering and have hard times to find new customers. Still, as 90% of these houses aren’t just a brand but are expert italian producers with a great tradition in terms of quality and fit, a light at the end of the tunnel still can be found by being timely smart enough to shape the company culture and production following the new needs of the consumers: the faster this change is possible, the lower number of employees and artisans will have to suffer a job loss.

Understanding Versace – Is gold all that sparkles?

AMF: the house of Versace has been often defined by the buyers as a “sleeping giant”. Versace name and branding is probably one of the most known in the world and has a priceless value of awareness. Among Armani, Valentino or Prada, Versace is a fashion brand that the entire planet knows and that can immediately be connected to a specific aesthetic and signature. Still, it seems that this wonderful brand did not manage to blossom again, yet.

A turnover of so different (yet talented) CEOs, a constant and confusing change of strategy, of concept and of product mix did not help the brand to create that “consistency” required by buyers, dept stores and franchisee to invest again on the Medusa. All of this is made worse by the problems related to some of the house’s lines which are heavily under-performing: Versus and Versace Jeans are for example two unfortunately not bright stars, while the “re-edition” strategy applied on the first line seems not to have such a strong impact on a mid-long term view but just on short term results (supported this ss 18 season by Gianni’s death anniversary celebrations).

Many “trend setting” wholesalers like 10 Corso Como bought Versace ss18 fashion show collection after many years of absence from the showroom, and, very probably, they will sell out every single beautiful piece. Still, it is quite difficult to think that archives digging might really pay back, without a real and clear vision for the future. In this complicate picture, there is another player which is difficult to handle: the American Blackstone, who had bought a big share of the brand hoping to enter an IPO beginning 2018 and resell its share with a significant profit. Unfortunately IPO has been several times postponed as probably numbers are not matching the market expectations for such a step. Under these circumstances, Blackstone has to extend its stay in the company, against its usual short “touch&go” strategy. In the meanwhile the market holds its breath waiting to jump on the Medusa products again, knowing that, over there, there are all the ingredients to be WOW again.

Alaia after Alaia: are big groups really ready with a back up plan in the event of the tragic death of a key designer?

AMF: the answer is that “they are not”! On one hand it is horrible to think that the owners of the brand you are designing for (and carries your name) have already prepared a plan B in case you die (like those newspapers that keep in the drawers eulogies and pre-obits of famous-still-alive-persons) but on the other hand being “carefully” pragmatic is often the best way to keep a business going and an historical “Maison” alive. Nevertheless, big groups are often not ready for such tragedies, like when Kering had to handle the suicide of Alexander Mc Queen or when the Trussardi family had to face the tragic losses of a father and a brother in very short times, or when Gianni Versace was murdered. No one can be prepared to this but still this is part of our life and should be mandatory for a Group or a Brand to have at least a strong and well planned reaction procedure: as Mr Luxottica often stated, companies belong to people who work for them and not to the owners and the future of the managers and of their families has to be protected and granted against sudden negative events like for example the death of the designer or of the owner.

In the case of Azzedine Alaia, all of us will incredibly miss him, his genius, his modern and so recognizable approach to clothes and his strong contribution to the fashion business. Still, I want to believe that there will be soon a new Maria Grazia or a new Hedi who will be able to continue Alaia’s signature, keeping us, the consumers, going back again to stores to buy his pieces of art.

2017 – the year of major collaborations

AMF: Co-branding and cooperations with artists are definitely the ultimate way to promote a fashion luxury product: not only this has a strong “lift effect” in terms of brand awareness and perception but the more the artist is exclusive or the co-branding is shocking and extreme, the stronger will be the result in terms of image and redemption on consumer attitude. A co-branding or a cooperation with a specific artist is  often used to refresh a boring situation in terms of product offer: Louis Vuitton, for example, tried both ways this year, by having the women bags designed by Jeff Koons and by cobranding with Supreme on mens accessories. In both cases, still the positive redemption has to be proved, as Jeff Koons bags seem not have had such a great response and as Supreme customized mens accessories pratically never reached the market and, probably, in between the two brands, Supreme is the one who got an higher increase in terms of visibility and additional sales.

On another hand different results have been enjoyed by Gucci while cooperating with Coco Capitan and Trevor Andrews: all customized items were very well received, were largely available in all Gucci shops and, even if they were not treated as limited editions, they soon became collector pieces. Personally, as a consumer of luxury goods and as an expert of the fashion industry, I would rather choose the beautiful products born between J.W. Anderson and Kelly Beeman or the Dior bags designed by Hong Hao or Jamilla Okubo: they are strong, original, new, interesting and extremely chic.

Prada debuts new retail concept in Miami – how is this new retail design concept going to help Prada? 

AMF: I have to admit that this store is simply stunning! Prada managed to mix in a wonderful way a clear Tropical Art Deco inspiration (very old Miami) with a strong touch of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milano. The new concept fits perfectly within the structure of the shop and creates and fluid dialogue with the city outside. If the said concept has all ingredients to be eventually exported abroad, this still has to be proved, but, frankly, I do not believe this is the intention of Prada. The brand is already famous for being able to adapt a general shop concept to every single project in a different way, creating what they call “Epicenters”: think to Tokyo shop or New York one or Los Angeles or Milano. All examples of different concepts, different architectures but always very close to the local culture and perception: as Mrs Miuccia says, luxury is first of all an expression of intelligence.

On another hand, this very flexible application of a shop concept allows the consumer to have a different shopping experience in each Prada point of sale, sometimes enjoying also limited edition products or special capsules created just for one specific city. Very hard to handle logistically and project wise, very expensive to create, but definitely a winner in terms of customer engagement, which nowadays is one of the crucial tools to rate the value of a brand.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s hotel venture expands internationally

AMF: I honestly believe Ronaldo is very smart to act in this way and It would be stupid for him not to take advantage of such a great moment of his career. People tend to follow their soccer idols like gods, they like to imitate them in their personal choices like food, clothes and vacations. No wonder Ronaldo’s influence covers also holiday resorts and restaurants. This is, in any case, not the first time that a sport champion transform his media power into products: David Beckham already ten years ago was testimonial of Armani and H&M underwear, had his own fragrance and line of sneakers, and played a strong role (also financially) when his wife decided to launch her fashion collection. The real goal (in every sense) will be for Ronaldo to keep such a strong impact on his fans also when his soccer career will fade a bit: probably he is not “hot” and “tattooed” enough as Beckham but he is still young and has still enough time to discover how to keep his audience faithful, in a way or in another.

Alessandro Maria Ferreri is the CEO of The Style Gate

Prada new store concept Miami Design District