MILAN — Fashion is not a numbers game — at least according to Patrizio Bertelli.
But while the president and chief executive officer of Prada Holding NV is no fan of the financial markets' focus on just the numbers, he has some big ones of his own in mind when it comes to Jil Sander and its possible sale.
Speaking at a luxury goods conference Wednesday organized by The Wall Street Journal, Italian publisher Class Editori and Merrill Lynch, Bertelli questioned the increasingly incestuous relationship between the banking world and fashion, criticizing analysts' valuation methods and the financial industry's pressure to produce results in the short term.
"Analysts are wrong to look just at the numbers. They don't consider what's really important to building a global brand: time and history," Bertelli said.
Bertelli, rare to public speaking engagements, kicked off the conference with a multifaceted speech that extolled the virtues of Italian production, stressed the importance of global brand building and criticized the banking industry's increasing involvement in the fashion business.
Referencing the conference's theme on niche and large-scale strategies, Bertelli said it's more important to focus on whether a brand "enters the collective consciousness" than its mere size. As evidence that Prada has made such an impact, Bertelli referred to an art installation of a replica Prada store recently built in the Texas desert by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.
"A brand, when it is global, has to preserve step after step ... all of the characteristics of innovation, identity, communication and quality, and do something unique and recognizable all over the world," he said.
As for a possible initial public offering — a prospect Prada has postponed four times — Bertelli demurred on that topic in a joking reference to the conference setting, the Milan Stock Exchange. "We are already at the borsa," he laughed.
Bertelli said he would consider selling Jil Sander if the offer was "very, very, very good." He also revealed that buyers have expressed interest in Helmut Lang.
"We are restructuring [Jil Sander] and converting an entrepreneurial business into an industrial one," he said.Those statements confirm a WWD report in October that Prada is focusing on its Prada and Miu Miu brands as it maps out its five-year strategic plan. To that end, Prada recently formed a new company called Prada SpA Group, which excludes the money-losing businesses of Helmut Lang and Jil Sander and a minority stake in shoemaker Church's.
Bertelli reiterated that Prada is looking to boost efficiencies at money-losing Jil Sander by transferring operations from Germany to Italy. He also restated that Prada has halted production of Helmut Lang as it mulls whether to sell the brand.
The Prada ceo wasn't the only one to take a shot at the financial markets. Other conference attendees also touched on the connection between finance and fashion, or lack thereof. Milan stock market executive director Raffaele Ierusalmi and head of Merrill Lynch Italy Maurizio Tamagnini both criticized the lack of listed fashion companies in Italy.
"Fashion and luxury are a diamond of Italian industry and they are very appreciated abroad," noted Ierusalmi. "We think that the borsa is fundamental for growth and becoming an industry leader."
Still, being a publicly traded company has its drawbacks, as Tod's ceo Diego Della Valle pointed out. He said companies feel the heat to produce stellar results every three months while investors should consider the long-term picture.
"We shouldn't fall in love with the numbers but rather be in love with excellence," he said.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia