In the late 1980s, right around the time Massimo and Sabrina Scarpellini Bonini had their two children, Giorgia and Filippo, they also gave birth to another major project: their first showroom. Today, the accessory power couple behind Massimo Bonini has a reputation for spotting the next big thing in shoes and taking a label from zero to worldwide distribution through their unique business model, which provides showroom, retail and public relations support to an array of brands — 37 at last count.
Over the years, names that have benefited from their incubation include Gianvito Rossi, Versace, Stella McCartney, Ernesto Esposito and Giambattista Valli. Now, the Boninis are expanding across Asia and into North America — and they’re bringing up a new guard of talent, including their own children, who have eagerly joined the company.
After finishing her fashion-business studies in London last year, Giorgia, 23, moved to New York to run Massimo Bonini’s Fifth Avenue showroom. Filippo, 22, is still in school in Italy, but he is already immersed in the business and plans to formally join the company’s sprawling two- building, three-floor Milanese operations on Via Montenapoleone when he graduates.
In December, the Boninis will open their first independent showroom in Hong Kong after years of working with The Joyce Group, bringing their showroom count to five. They also have eight multibrand retail stores in the region.
“It’s important for us to increase our base in Asia,” said Sabrina, who spoke to FN over the phone, along with her husband and daughter, while the family enjoyed their August holiday on the Italian coast. Giorgia agreed: “It’s essential for us to have a dedicated space for this market, which is growing a lot.”
Massimo has ambitious goals for the new outpost. “We aim to achieve a total wholesale turnover of $100 million within 2016,” he told FN. Giorgia believes this is doable because of the area’s consumer demand. “In Asia, they love new brands — and products that are ‘Made in Italy.’”
The company’s most popular looks include Alessandro Dell’Acqua’s Ronny mules for No. 21, which went viral last season; MSGM’s chunky mixed media styles; twisted classics from revamped heritage label Henderson; and punkish, sculptural sneaker boots from Bruno Bordese. Among retailers, its longstanding relationships include Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Lane Crawford and Saks Fifth Avenue. “We are finding that the best-performing brands are the younger brands,” said Giorgia. “They have the talent and vision, sure, but we’ve been able to help them formulate the right strategy and get them into the right stores.”
Sabrina continually looks forward when it comes to her own elegant yet cutting-edge sartorial flair and the designers she deems worthy of her endorsement. “We are very selective, but when we believe in someone, we put them on an international stage, regardless of age,” she said, citing Giannico’s Nicolo Beretta, 19, as a prime example.
“It’s exciting for us when a designer breaks out,” said Giorgia, naming Massimo Giorgetti (of MSGM and now Pucci) as another youthful talent with market momentum. “It’s unbelievable, season upon season, how positive [the brand’s] growth has been,” added Sabrina.
Massimo welcomes his children’s perspective. “I learn something new every day,” he said. “It’s important to work with youthful people. They’re like me, but 30 years younger. It’s fantastic.”