MILAN — Add “sign now” to the see-now-buy-now format, at least when it comes to Alexandre Birman.
The Brazilian footwear designer was caught in plenty of shoe signing at the cocktail celebrating his namesake label’s partnership with luxury retailer Antonia here on Tuesday.
Gathered on the opening evening of Milan Fashion Week at Antonia’s location in the former archbishop seminary on central Corso Venezia that also houses Ferragamo’s new Portrait Milano hotel, the fashion crowd seized the moment for some shopping. Guests and loyal customers of the retailer rushed to try on the exclusive sandals marking the tie-up and have their new purchases sealed with Birman’s signature.
The friendly and informal vibe suited both Birman’s relaxed attitude and the bubbly personality of Antonia Giacinti, who established Antonia Milano as an upscale accessories store in 1999. The retailer later expanded to include women’s and menswear, the latter steered by cofounder Maurizio Purificato.
“I’ve been friends with Antonia [Giacinti] for many years. I’ve basically started the Alexandre Birman brand with her, and she often comes to Brazil; she loves it,” said Birman in between sole signing. “We had this idea of the collaboration last year for the opening of this store, which is very special for the world, not only for Milan. This is going to be the place where fashion will breathe novelty, so we decided to design a special shoe style available exclusively here.”
As reported, last year Antonia unveiled its second outpost in the city inside the colonnaded courtyard of the Portrait complex. Covering around 8,000 square feet, the retail space carries a mix of established designers and new names for men and women, as well as offering branded concept corners in rotation and a sneaker space. The location adds to Antonia’s first store opened in 2013 inside the landmark Palazzo Cagnola in Milan’s Brera district and international units in Macao and Wuhan in China.
Offered in two slightly different versions, Birman’s high-heeled sandals designed for the retailer are defined by bandage-effect straps wrapping around the feet and expressing “the essence of the Alexandre Birman woman: elegant but young, unconventional but without being eccentric.”
Set on signature flared stiletto heels, the sandals are crafted either in soft leather or silk satin and enriched with a statement buckle that is covered in leather or bejeweled with crystals, respectively. Rendered in lime or camel tones, the Antonia Leather version retails at 595 euros, while the Antonia Crystals option in black or pale cherry satin is priced at 750 euros.
While after the in-store cocktail guests moved to the adjacent Portrait Milano hotel for dinner and drinks set to the tempo of both Brazilian and Italian music hits, Birman’s stay in the city will extend beyond the event. The designer decided to decamp from Paris to present his main fall 2023 collection during Milan Fashion Week, too, staging a presentation on Thursday at the Palazzo Parigi hotel.
Asked about the decision to join the city’s official fashion schedule, the founder remained vague in teasing that the brand’s parent company, Arezzo & Co., is focusing on and investing in Italy. Without disclosing more details, he hinted that big news will be coming early next month. “Let’s just say that Arezzo, which was born in Brazil and inspired by Italy, after 50 years will have a foot in the country,” he said.
Currently also serving as chief executive officer of Arezzo & Co., Birman founded his namesake brand in 2008. Carried in stand-alone stores worldwide and prime retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-porter, the brand is best known for the Clarita sandal defined by two bow ties, one on the upper of the shoe and one at the ankle strap.
Before launching the label, Birman established the Schutz brand in 1995, when he was only 18. A knack for shoemaking runs in his family since his father Anderson, chairman of Arezzo & Co., and uncle Jefferson founded the namesake brand Arezzo in 1972.
Five decades later, the company evolved into a multibranded group that includes Arezzo, Schutz and Alexandre Birman as well as Anacapri, Fiever, Alme, My Shoes, Baw Clothing, Carol Bassi and the lifestyle arm AR&Co, which counts brands such as Reserva. In 2019, Arezzo & Co. revealed an agreement to be the exclusive distributor of the Vans brand of footwear, apparel and accessories in Brazil, too.
Listed on the São Paulo Stock Exchange since 2011, in the first nine months of 2022 the company reported sales up 57.4 percent to 3.6 billion Brazilian reals, or roughly $700 million, compared to the same period in 2021.