MILAN — Speed is the defining trait at Twinset in the post-pandemic world, according to chief executive officer Alessandro Varisco, who is picking up his mission to rejuvenate and accelerate the brand’s performance after the COVID-19-disrupted years.
On Wednesday, the company revealed it has inked a multiyear licensing deal for the design, production and global distribution of eyewear with Italy-based De Rigo, which serves as licensing partner to brands including Blumarine, Philipp Plein, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Roberto Cavalli and Furla, among others.
“After dodging the fallout in 2020 when we were forced to weather the disruption caused by the pandemic, we realized speed would be the guiding principle going forward,” Varisco told WWD in an exclusive interview.
“We had to find the right partner who shared our values. By looking at products, you realize how they were made not only in sync with our [fashion] DNA but also with our values, [the deal] materialized after knowing each other by chance but it’s been a real, mutual engagement,” he said.
The eyewear license marks the first of such deals for Twinset and the first time the premium contemporary brand is debuting sunglasses and prescription frames.
The first collection will bow in March through De Rigo’s distribution network and at Twinset’s flagship stores globally.
“We are sure that by working together we will reach significant and challenging objectives on a global scale. For De Rigo, this partnership represents an additional step in the group’s development plan, strengthening and widening our product offering in the women’s segment,” De Rigo’s managing director Michele Aracri said in a statement.
The move falls amid several rebooting steps taken by Varisco in recent months across product and organization to ensure growth.
On the former front, the CEO said that rationalizing the offering was key.
“I realized we only needed two legs to keep running,” he said, pointing to the company’s Twinset Milano main collection and the Actitude line debuted in 2021 as a more relaxed and versatile offering, forgoing the brand’s signature laces, bows and flounces.
“It’s about developing collections with a more international appeal and language, still romantic but with a leaner attitude,” the executive said. “As pervasive technology tends to conform everybody, Twinset needs to address women who want to be attuned with the times.”
Mindful of the rapidly changing scenarios in fashion, as highlighted by the pandemic years, Varisco rebooted the firm’s internal organization horizontally, enhancing the company’s ability to quickly respond to new market needs.
In 2019, the company leveraged that attitude to introduce a rental program called “PleaseDon’tBuy Signed by Twinset,” billed back then as the first rental project developed by a fashion brand.
It rapidly took off but then had a setback after the COVID-19 outbreak, Varisco said, noting the company is still fully committed to it.
“The project was originally conceived for a younger audience but we have acknowledged that it caters to female customers across generations. I think the concept of ownership per se is gone,” Varisco said.
The rental service has had a crucial role in drawing new customers into Twinset’s flagship stores, fueling cross-selling, with clients on the hunt for a frilly cocktail dress to rent and ending up buying knits and blazers.
Twinset, founded as a knitwear specialist, is controlled by private equity group The Carlyle Group, and has over the past few years reached out to a younger generation, tapping the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Georgia May Jagger and Suki Waterhouse for its communication.
Carlyle acquired 70 percent of Twinset in 2012, upping its stake to 90 percent in 2015 and taking full control in 2017 after Simona Barbieri, who founded the company in 1990 in the Italian town of Carpi — a knitwear hub — with business partner Tiziano Sgarbi, left the company.
The executive did not provide revenue figures for 2022, beyond saying they were in line with the company’s business plan. He expects 2023 sales to exceed pre-pandemic levels.
Operating more than 100 directly operated stores across Europe and Russia and a similar amount of franchised units in the Middle East and in the countries neighboring Russia, the brand is steadily expanding its retail footprint, representing 40 percent of its sales.
“We used to have little retail presence in the past, especially because we focused on big flagships. Now the approach has shifted as I think medium-sized boutiques are best and ensure the client feels welcomed and spoiled when visiting our stores,” he said.
High on the executive’s agenda is the U.S., where Twinset recently inked a new distribution partnership. But Varisco professed his caution toward the region, which is seen as potentially very lucrative but equally requiring huge investments.