Paul Vando, the VP of men’s footwear design at Bruno Magli, recently spoke with FN about how the label is competing in the sneaker space and catering to customers across the globe.
How do you keep an 80-year-old brand like Bruno Magli relevant for today’s consumers?
“A brand needs to appeal to them emotionally as well as sensibly. On the emotional side, consumers are drawn to the aesthetic: Does the product evoke a sense of luxury? Do the materials look and feel rich and artisan? Is the product not represented elsewhere in the marketplace? On the sensible side, consumers are looking for value: Is the level of quality as good or better than other luxury brands? In short, is the purchase one they’d make again?”
What are some of the biggest challenges you face right now?
“The world has become a much smaller market with the emergence of e-commerce. Retail has become more homogenized, and the shopping experience is not what it was 10 years ago. That being said, each market has its own needs. Italians dress differently than Brits, who dress differently than Parisians, who dress differently than Americans, who dress differently than men in Asia. When creating a global collection, it’s difficult to subscribe to a specific design axiom. I try to ensure we cover all categories in a way that’s unique but that also satisfies multiple markets.”
How closely do you work with Bruno Magli’s other design teams to create a full lifestyle look?
“[Because we are] a footwear-dominated brand, much of the direction comes from me and our women’s footwear designer, Claudia Ciutti. We start the design process early to allow other categories to follow the same trend and color direction. I work closely with Mia Rothstein, SVP and head of global brand merchandising, who coordinates the design efforts of all categories to create cohesion.”
The brand’s roots are in the dress shoe category, so can Bruno Magli become a sneaker resource?
“Breaking into an oversaturated luxury sneaker market isn’t an easy endeavor. However, the one thing we’ve found is that the consumer’s appetite for product in this category is insatiable. As our presence in the footwear market continues to increase, so will the number of sneaker styles we offer.”
With prices on the higher end of the market, does the brand run the risk of pricing out younger shoppers?
“We’ve done a good job of positioning the brand at an attainable price point for a luxury resource. Sneakers retail from $350 to $425, dress shoes from $395 to $550 and boots at $595 to $650. As a father of two young men, ages 20 and 17, I look at their footwear purchases with a high degree of skepticism. They, along with most of their friends, seem to understand and accept the price to play in the arena we call fashion. Their closets are filled with Adidas, Nike, Timberland and Vans, but the occasional Yeezy, Supreme or limited-edition AF1 remind me that their generation will be prepared to shop for more tailored luxury footwear.”
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