Launching a Luxury Brand in 2020 Was Almost Impossible — How Alfredo Piferi Defied the Odds

On Dec. 8, Alfredo Piferi will be honored as launch of the year at the first virtual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 7 print issue about Piferi’s breakout moment during the most difficult time to launch a luxury brand.

“People will think I’m crazy for saying 2020 was great.”

But Alfredo Piferi, the young talent behind his namesake brand Piferi, should be proud. During a crippling pandemic that made it virtually impossible for emerging designers to break through, the former head of design at Jimmy Choo won over retailers with a collection that has all the right ingredients for success. 

“For me, Piferi was the launch that stood out this year,” said Alberto Oliveros, Kurt Geiger’s GMM, who oversees the business at Harrods, which exclusively launched Piferi in October. “I love that it’s a vegan collection. Sustainability is becoming more important and relevant for every single customer. But I also love that the shoes are super feminine, dreamy and unique,” Oliveros said.

Piferi Fantasia Sandal
The Fantasia sandal

While many emerging designers enter the industry with little experience, Piferi — who also had stints at Burberry and Versace— understands how to craft a shoe that’s both fashion-forward and commercial. The made-in-Italy collection’s architectural aesthetic, environmentally responsible mission and sharp price points — combined with distinctive pink branding — are all critical to the equation.

“I started Piferi with the idea of creating a product with a purpose. It’s not just about shoes, but more about what they stand for,” the designer said.

Alfredo Pīferi
Alfredo Pīferi
CREDIT: Courtesy of Piferi

But building a luxury collection without leather is no easy feat, and few designers have really been able to crack the code. “I arrived at a factory [in Parabiago, Italy,] that used to produce leather shoes forever,” he said. “And when it comes to glue, you realize there is animal everywhere. We had to find alternatives. Usually, when you have less to choose from, you need to boost your creativity,” Piferi explained.

The designer is passionate about details, like the silhouette of his curved heel, or the detachable socquette made of durable recycled nylon
and upcycled lurex.

Piferi said he relishes the production challenges — and key buyers believe his vision is on point. “‘Conscious is at the forefront of our minds when searching for brands, and Piferi embodies the key elements of the new luxury: sustainability, craftsmanship and design,” said Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns and chief brand officer at Farfetch.

Irene Yu, GMM of On Pedder, which is stocking Piferi at eight stores in China, said the new label checks several important boxes. “Along with impressing our eco-conscious shoppers, Alfredo’s design codes also offer our customers options that feel new and exciting,” Yu said.

Piferri Soquette
The clever Piferi socquette

Insiders noted that Piferi’s pricing strategy is another distinct advantage as Piferi competes with more-established luxury players. The collection, which has also launched at Level Shoes in Dubai, retails from $465 for a flat to $1,095 for an over-the-knee boot. Piferi recently added a mule and flat ballerina with mesh detailing.

“Alfredo is a unique talent. He possesses the ability to conceive and execute a clear vision and has a customer-focused understanding and strategy at the core of his brand — while having immense product and supply chain knowledge,” said Christopher Suarez, the former Nicholas Kirkwood CEO who mentored Piferi during the launch.

Now that the shoes are finally in the market — Piferi moved the launch from spring ’20 to fall ’20 after the coronavirus stalled his plans— he is eager to hit the road as soon as travel restrictions lift. “I’m a really social person, and one of my strengths is that I can communicate. But I can’t do that right now unless it’s through digital, and that’s a bit frustrating.”

As the designer charts his future, he understands that the challenge will be making all the parts of the business work together. He plans to add more daywear to the collection after establishing the dressed-up evening looks. And with his website now up and running, he is determined to make the brand as inclusive as possible, with sizes extending up to 45. “I want transgender women, men, women with bigger sizes to be able to wear my designs,” he said. “There is beauty inside all of us.”

For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The first virtual FNAAs will air online Dec. 8 and are presented in partnership with The Style Room Powered by Zappos, and sponsors FDRA, Deckers Brands, Soles4Souls and Foot Locker. Register now to watch the star-studded awards!

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