FN quizzed both heritage and emerging Italian labels at the Micam shoe fair in Milan last week on the year ahead.
Here’s what they had to say about digital U.S. expansion and more.
1. Gio Giacobbe, CEO, ACBC (Advanced Commuter Basic Concept), a new modular footwear brand with interchangeable zip-on, zip-off skins and soles.
Geographic focus: “We launched three years ago in Asia, which is our biggest market, with 35 points of sale in China, Japan and Korea. We are now moving into Europe.”
U.S. approach: “The U.S. is the market. We want to become the Apple of footwear. But it’s a journey, and e-commerce is the answer. We started online and went viral. You can buy the brand online all over the world.”
New projects: “We are discussing collaborations with two major luxury Italian labels for 2019 but are collaborating with Pepsi in China this year. They have designed some skins for us.”
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On strategy: “We will develop monobrand stores in Europe — in Milan, Paris, Munich, London and Madrid.
The economic climate: “We started at the beginning of the storm three years ago, so our key performance indicators are in line with the climate. It’s difficult, but the situation is improving. I believe that if you have a nice product at the right price, it will do well.”
2. Karl Schlecht, co-founder,Thierry Rabotin
Geographic focus: “Currently Russia is our first market, the U.S. is number two, and France and Germany are three and four. China is a growing market, and this spring, we will open our first flagship in China in Beijing. We already have stores in New York, Rome and Paris.”
U.S. approach: “We focus on independent stores, as there is less risk. We give them a good product that is isn’t stocked with the big guys.”
Overall strategy: “We want to increase our customer service and are taking our trunk shows to a new level using style consultants. We host 25 to 30 every season.”
The economic climate: “It has no real effect. There are two kind of customers: One stops spending, and the other treats themselves when things aren’t good.”
3. Gimmi Baldinini, CEO, Baldinini
Geographic focus: “Currently, 80 percent of sellout comes from the Russian Federation, then Poland and Iran. This year, we will open an additonal three stores in China starting with Shanghai in March.
U.S. approach: “In 2017, we opened three boutiques in Long Island [N.Y.], Miami and New Jersey. This year, we will collaborate with a L.A. Press agency for celebrity placements and endorsement.”
Growth areas: “We are launching men’s and women’s watches with a Swiss company. The product will drop in June.”
Overall strategy: “Improving the men’s collection sellout, especially in China, where we only sell women’s so far. We are also focusing on digital. We [overhauled] our worldwide e-commerce platform last year, and online sales have doubled year on year.”
4. Gabriella Ballin, CEO, Ballin
Geographic focus: “We launched our new project, Alchimia di Ballin, 18 months ago specifically for the United States — with a view to crack the American market. But we’ve also had international success. This year, we are stocked at Bon Marche in Paris, Lane Crawford, SKP Beijing and Salam in Doha and Qatar.”
U.S. approach: “We are focusing on being in the best department stores like Barneys, which was our first U.S. client, and Hirshleifers. This year, we also have Intermix.”
Overall strategy: “We want to increase our international market and establish brand awareness in Europe, the Middle East and Asia — working with key department stores and local influencers. In the U.S., Bella Hadid is already a big fan of our fall 2018 quilted Daphne boots.”
5. Annarita Pilotti, CEO Loriblu
On geographic focus: “We are strong in Europe and Russia. For fall, we are showing at Paris Fashion Week for the first time. We previously did Premiere Classe.”
U.S. approach: “We have signed a new L.A. agency, as we want to be more selective about celebrity placement so the brand is represented in a consistent and positive way to elevate our perception.”
On growth areas: “We have implemented a new digital system across the company to streamline processes — from production to distribution. 2018 is the 40th anniversary of our signature Mignon sandal, which we are celebrating with a limited-edition capsule collection for spring — which we have also developed for fall.”
6. Salina Ferretti, general manager of Falc, parent company of Flower Mountain, a young Japanese sneaker brand.
Geographic focus: “The brand launched in Asia, so our main markets are Japan, China and Korea. However, we have started distributing it in Europe and the U.S.”
American approach: “We are stocked at the best independent stores such as Kith, for which we are doing special colorways.”
Overall strategy: “Although online and social media are important to us, there are some great retailers out there. We know our customers like to go into a store and experience the brand.”
7. Marco Piazzi, managing director, Pollini
Geographic focus: “Eastern Europe and Russia, where we are opening a new boutique in Moscow this year, and Italy, where we opened two boutiques in Rome last summer. The Far East is also a major market for us.”
U.S. approach: “The U.S. market remains an important focus, and we work with our affiliate, Aeffe USA.”
Growth areas: “At Micam, we presented a new see-now-buy-now capsule called Joyful Heritage — featuring a tropical floral pattern.