Accessories Lines Moving and Shaking

Accessories brands are diversifying their offerings to build brand awareness and gain market share.

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Special Issue
WWD A issue 02/16/2009

Aldo Lopez might be considered the ultimate dreamer. Last year, Lopez decided to abandon his career as a high-profile lawyer and launch a luxury accessories line called Mos Milano for spring 2009, comprising jewelry, handbags and eyewear. Handmade in Italy by carefully selected artisans, the collection’s leitmotif is the infinity sign, discreetly embellishing the arms of the glasses and adorning diamond earrings.

This story first appeared in the February 16, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The economy tanked in the months after the launch, and Lopez is fully aware that “it was a bad moment and 2009 is even worse.” But he continues to see an opportunity in the development of his concept. “Retailers want to experiment because they need to create interest and stimulate their customers. With us, they are freed from minimum purchases, versus constraining limits often imposed by big designer brands,” says Lopez, who remains confident in long-term results. “I know it’s going to be a very long process to establish our identity — and it may take up to 10 years — but I want this to become a small luxury maison, known for its true craftsmanship and classic-yet-contemporary accessories made by the best artisans in the sector.”

Mos Milano jewelry was snapped up by Pisa, one of Milan’s toniest jewelers, and also is carried at Quarter 206 in Berlin and Boutique 1 in Dubai, among other locations. Lopez points to the brand’s three categories as an “element of strength — more difficult to create but easier to communicate,” as, together, they convey a comprehensive message of style.

Indeed, product differentiation is the driving strategy for a number of accessories brands. In a dismal economy, this tactic is seen as a service to retailers and an opportunity to reach a wider customer base. For fall 2009, Furla launched its first men’s accessories collection, Valextra added a few men’s shirts and jackets to its accessories collection and Prada-owned footwear brand Church’s expanded its core business with a comprehensive collection of bags, small leather goods, umbrellas and scarves.

In November, Samsonite launched a new division, Samsonite Footwear, headquartered in Milan, to develop and globally distribute a shoe collection. “The goal is to further grow the value of the brand, which is known for its bags and travel accessories, through an extension in footwear with products marked by style and comfort, stemming from values such as durability and reliability,” said the company in a statement. Case in point: a blue-and-silver suede and nylon sneaker distinguished by Samsonite’s iconic logo stitched on the side. “The extension is synergic with our core business,” the statement reads.

Licensing agreements are also a means to enter new territories. Braccialini, known for its colorful patchwork bags and quirky totes shaped as London cabs or owls, has been leveraging a number of licenses to bring visibility to the brand. The latest venture is an innerwear line licensed to Como, Italy-based Frangi, which will bow for fall 2009. Frangi also has been producing Braccialini branded scarves for the past two years. As a first foray outside its core business, Braccialini launched its umbrellas, licensed to H2O, and Lorenzo Braccialini, in charge of marketing at the family-owned company, says this license continues to work “very, very well.”

Last year, Braccialini launched its first fragrance, The First, with Schiapparelli Pikenz and will introduce a higher-end scent at the end of the year. Licenses, says Braccialini, help avoid dealing with production costs, shipments and distribution, although the company invests in a design team that supports licensing.

“Licenses work only if you are completely hands-on,” says Braccialini. “And if you have a lifestyle to communicate.”

The firm also takes advantage of its parent company Mariella Burani Fashion Group’s synergies to provide additional merchandise. For example, MBFG’s Facco Corp. produces and distributes Braccialini’s jewelry, which was launched two years ago.

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