First Look at Stefano Maroni

Stefano Maroni knows what the customer wants.

After 10 years at the helm of GMI USA Corp., a licensing company that has worked with Ben Sherman, True Religion and Seven for All Mankind, Maroni is emerging from behind the scenes to launch a women’s brand under his own name.

“I feel good about my experience, my capabilities, my organization built in the U.S. It just felt like the right time,” the GMI president and CEO said of the move.

The Stefano Maroni collection will debut for spring ’15 with a mix of graphic and ladylike silhouettes in bold hues, priced from $550 to $1,100.

After growing up in the footwear business — Maroni’s father owned a manufacturing facility in Italy — the designer is betting on his craftsmanship skills, which he views as an increasingly rare asset. “It seems to me our industry is losing the know-how of the craft,” he said. “Young designers need to spend time and learn the techniques of making beautiful, handcrafted shoes. One can have the most creative, best design talent in the world, but if they can’t execute [the vision], it will be nothing but paper.”

Maroni has also put some thought into the characteristics of his target consumer: “[She is] quietly alluring, elegant and feminine, lives globally, is ambitious, knows what is beautiful for her and is aware of her presence, but not in an ostentatious way.” So who did Maroni use as a source of female inspiration? “Inès de la Fressange [of Roger Vivier] and my beautiful wife,” he said.

For spring, the label is targeted to department stores and high-end independent boutiques. Maroni said he believes his unique designs and rich background will be key strengths in that competitive arena.

“I learned how to make a business in America — the mechanics of it [and how to] service our customers,” he said. “I learned to develop, build and interpret a brand’s DNA and translate that into product with competitive price restrictions. Nowadays, with the unlimited product offering available, you have to be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.”

And the designer, who also launched the Created Equal line for spring ’12 but shuttered it soon after, has just the plan to succeed with his namesake label. “[My goal] is to stay focused on my target woman and be consistent with the product direction and message,” he said. “[I want to] create a niche in the marketplace and generate an emotion among our customers.”

The Designer
Footwear is a family affair for Stefano Maroni. “I grew up in Italy in my father’s manufacturing facility, learning every single process in making shoes,” said the executive, who founded licensing business GMI USA Corp. in 2004.

The Inspiration
“My inspiration comes from style icons and people whose allure is still irresistible today,” Maroni said. “[The line has a] classic, feminine, ladylike image with touches of color and glamour — with a twist, of course.”

The Pitch
The collection will be presented in August at the Greg Mills Showroom in New York. Distribution is aimed at department stores and key independent boutiques.