That’s the American strategy for Loro Piana, the Italian luxury brand and textile company that has been slowly but steadily building its U.S. retail network. Now, following the opening last month of its San Francisco flagship, the company is focusing on consolidating its business within its own shops and with top department stores.
“As far as the States is concerned, we’re at a place where we feel comfortable with our [direct-retail] locations and real estate,” said Pier Guerci, president Loro Piana USA. “Before we move forward with further retail expansion we have to capitalize on the stores we already have because there’s really so much growth opportunity.”
Located in a former Hermès shop in Union Square, the 3,500-square-foot San Francisco space carries the complete women’s, men’s, accessories, children’s and home collections. It also provides custom-made services for both women and men.
The San Francisco shop is the ninth directly operated unit to go up in the U.S. in the past three years. “Quite frankly, we’ve continued to grow despite the economy and the challenges we’ve had to deal with,” Guerci said.
Grow, indeed, but always with an air of understatement. Discretion is what Sergio Loro Piana and his brother, Pier Luigi, who together spearhead the family-run company, value most in their lives and for their clients. Thus, glitz and hype have never accompanied Loro Piana — and that’s just fine by the brothers.
Since the Loro Piana ready-to-wear collection a decade ago, the brand has become one of the main players in the superluxe category, evolving from a purveyor of cashmere scarves to a lifestyle brand. With doors in top department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, Loro Piana has carved out a strong consumer following.
“We’ve seen a very steady growth with both men’s and women’s,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman. “Loro Piana really represents a lifestyle that our customers lead. There’s a customer that wears Oscar, Valentino, YSL, Chanel and Armani, but they also all have homes outside the city and it’s that casual, luxury aspect that Loro Piana addresses and they address it better than anyone.“Loro Piana is pushing it right now with more suede and fur,” Burke said, referencing the current fall collection. “We’ve seen a lot of growth with novelty pieces and we really treat it as a designer collection, not just as knitwear or outerwear. It’s really looked at as a designer line.”
At Bergdorf Goodman, Loro Piana recently inaugurated a new men’s shop-in-shop on the main floor in the Men’s Store and the brothers also are in discussion to increase the size of their women’s shop there. They also are developing shop-in-shops at select Neiman Marcus locations.
“Quality is everything for us because what we’re doing is a timeless product,” said Guerci. “Our [growth] strategy is a bit different [than others] because it’s more long term.”
For Loro Piana’s spring collection, which will be shown Thursday here, the line continues to offer classic pieces with fashion elements and in what Burke calls, “a sophisticated color palette.” Their summer cashmere piuma knits are paired with a hand-woven suede bomber lined in cashmere. For spring, the company also has added a new model to its capsule bag collection. The Horsey Bag, a treated canvas with leather trim, can be worn in three different ways — as a backpack, shoulder bag or handbag. On the bag’s side panel is a brass ring designed to hold sunglasses.
Although Loro Piana the luxury brand is relatively new, in textile circles the company’s name has been synonymous with the world’s best cashmere for more than a century. While some of its reputation carried over to its final consumers, the company really had to start from zero to communicate the quality behind the brand. Although it does some print advertising, it’s focusing more on direct mail and special events in stores, and also at Loro Piana lifestyle venues, such as yacht and golf clubs.
While no brand has been immune to the global economy, Loro Piana has continued to mark gains thanks in part to its continued retail expansion.
There are 61 Loro Piana stores worldwide. Italy generates one-third of Loro Piana’s revenues; North America, a third; Europe, excluding Italy, 17 percent; the Far East, 14 percent, and the rest of the world, 2 percent.For 2003, Loro Piana expects consolidated sales for both the luxury and textile divisions to reach $301.2 million, or 260 million euros, with the luxury division up 10 percent on the year. Piana added that at constant currency rates the luxury division’s growth would have been in the high double digits.
“There’s nothing as bad as the period we just got out of,” Piana said. “But there was also no better time to understand if we were on the right track and from what we’ve seen, we are.”
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