By  on January 10, 2005

NEW YORK — BM USA Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Bruno Magli SpA, emerged from bankruptcy on Thursday.Aaron Schwartz, president of Bruno Magli North America, said in a telephone interview on Friday, “It’s such a nice way to end one year and move into the next.”The restructuring under bankruptcy gave the company some breathing room on the financial side of its business while also allowing it to engage in several initiatives.Last month, for example, the Italian firm opened its first shop-in-shop concept in the Arthur Beren store on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The site is Bruno Magli’s retail prototype as well as laboratory for new product ideas. The plan is for the in-store shop to showcase limited distribution of product that would not be available in other channels of distribution through the manufacturer’s wholesale operations. The firm’s seven retail locations were closed during the bankruptcy.Another by-product of the bankruptcy has been a fine-tuning of its operations from production to financial and design. According to Schwartz, “Our design and product development teams are more collaborative now, whereas before, we never had an in-house team. Sometimes we would have one designer and other times a team instead. Now we are more focused and very laboratory-ish.”The restructuring also allowed the footwear and accessories firm to think more about what its customers want, instead of just getting product into the stores. All Bruno Magli’s products are still made in Italy, and by hand.One initiative was an evaluation of Bruno Magli’s infrastructure in the production of women’s shoes and figuring out where it can pass value on to the consumer while still maintaining — and sometimes lowering — its retail prices amid a very strong euro. From that exercise, the company took what it learned and applied it to its other product categories, such as accessories.The firm learned it also needs to satisfy the whims of three female consumer groups: a younger, smarter consumer in her 20s or 30s who favors high heels and the latest fashion trends; a slightly older woman who has established her own fashion look and is sophisticated yet more likely to buy only if the item suits her personal style, and a mature woman who favors the same style year after year and is mostly looking to replenish her wardrobe with the exact same items.Bruno Magli’s U.S. operations is about 60 percent men’s and 40 percent women’s. Globally, however, the percentage is reversed, with the focus on women’s products. In the U.S. women’s business, 90 percent is footwear with the balance in accessories and apparel.As for the future, Bruno Magli is focusing on an expansion in the area of leather goods, including accessories and apparel. But that may have to take a temporary backseat to the firm’s museum project.“We’re taking our top 100 [designs] from our 70-year-old archives and restoring them [to create] a tour and introduction to the heritage of our brand. We plan to include images from the 1930s and 1940s. Some of these images include the three Magli siblings working on a bench making shoes, and Sophia Loren buying shoes in Rome,” Schwartz said.

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