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MILAN — You can take the man out of Naples but you can’t take Naples out of the man, or so Gianluca Isaia is hoping.
This story first appeared in the January 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The president of Neapolitan sartorial label Isaia plans to open his first flagship in the heart of the Golden Triangle shopping district here on Sunday. Units in New York — on Madison Avenue — and Tokyo are slated to follow in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Isaia also plans to launch its first scent in June under license with an undisclosed partner and a concierge service to provide shopping and lifestyle assistance such as travel tips, hotel and restaurant recommendations to faithful customers.
“It’s a big step for us. It’s a statement. It means that we are ready for the next phase to be recognized as a worldwide brand,” Isaia said of the store, which is tucked under the arcades of the tony Via Pietro Verri opposite leading men’s wear brands Jil Sander, Burberry and Tom Ford.
“The store promotes and communicates our identity, which is both in the fashion and classic arena,” Isaia said, calling it “a balancing act between contemporary and tradition that makes up our DNA.”
Isaia expects the 3,500-square-foot store to generate 2.5 million euros, or $3.4 million at current exchange, this year, a slightly lower figure than originally estimated due to the difficult economic climate, Isaia said.
In 2008, sales at the company, which also counts four franchised stores in Russia and Eastern Europe, increased 12.5 percent to 27 million euros, or $39.7 million at average exchange. The U.S. accounts for 45 percent of sales.
Isaia admitted it was “a very delicate moment” to open a flagship but at the same time “a great opportunity” because customers today are looking for “real products.”
“For this reason we find opportunity in this recession,” Isaia said, adding it was essential to “plan, control and monitor” in such times.
Isaia is known for a contemporary classic style, which is colorful and flamboyant, yet rooted in tailoring excellence — much like the company president, the third generation of Neapolitan suitmakers, who wears a plaid gray suit with a soft Neapolitan shoulder, accessorized with a turquoise silk pocket square, and paired with handmade leather sandals from Capri.
He is hoping men follow suit, literally.
“It’s complicated, It’s a big bet. We are traditional but at the same time contemporary. We must find a way to have the two live together under the same roof,” Isaia said.
The brand’s new Milanese home does exactly that. Converted from office space, the store, designed by British architect James Irvine, spreads out over two floors and features 10 floor-to-ceiling windows that illuminate the shop’s white and aubergine walls, marble display units and wooden floors.
Men’s accessories and a debut jewelry line for women are housed on the first floor, while up a marble staircase the label’s summer ’09 ready-to-wear collection is displayed on the second floor.
Further in, there is the made-to-measure room, the centerpiece of which is a colossal table for laying out nearly 1,000 fabric references, where customers will be able to observe the tailors at work.
On the wall, a touch-screen plasma television shows the production of suits in the factory in Casalnuovo, on the outskirts of Naples, where the company was started in the Fifties by Gianluca’s grandfather, Enrico Isaia.
“The key to success is for customers to feel that they are in your world,” Isaia said. “Everything should say Isaia, even if customers don’t even see the brand name.”
Given Isaia’s following among leading Hollywood men such as Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, the store also boasts a VIP room dubbed the Vesuvius room, so named because of a sculptural light fixture, which is shaped like an upside down Mount Vesuvius, the volcano overlooking Pompeii near Naples.
Other references to Southern Italy include a sea sculpture and a painting of Pompeii.
“We will even have an aperitivo served on Saturdays and we’ll serve fresh mozzarella from Naples,” Isaia said. “You’ve never had mozzarella if it didn’t come from Naples.”