MILAN — Aquazzura is marking its 10th anniversary this year and founder Edgardo Osorio still marvels at the milestone. “It seems like yesterday and yet like a lifetime ago. It’s funny, a lot of people are surprised, they never think it’s just 10 years.”
This is likely because of the status and brand awareness Aquazzura has achieved in the decade, as the designer has succeeded in building a solid and independent business and in developing a loyal customer base that includes celebrities and royals ranging from Kate Middleton to Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson, to name few.
Nothing has happened by chance, however, and Osorio pays tribute to the artisans he has worked with over the years, who have passed on their know-how and passion for this craft. One of his goals is to keep Made in Italy traditional techniques, passed on across generations, thriving for the future.
Osorio was only a teenager when he started interning and he worked for a decade in the industry before launching Aquazzura. “I had time to plant my feet on the ground and develop my experience and the right contacts with manufacturers, suppliers and artisans before going on my own,” Osorio explained. “This is a business you can’t improvise, experience is so important, never suggest otherwise.”
He recalled how he’d always been interested in design, interiors and fashion, “obsessed with making the world beautiful and making beautiful things,” he said with a laugh. “Since I have any recollection, I’ve always loved to sketch and draw.”
After a summer course at Central Saint Martins in London, his teachers — and he himself — quickly realized his focus should be on accessories. “It was quite natural for me and I am a very instinctive person, I work and live on instinct and this seemed to me the right way to go.”
The anniversary is not a moment to look back, though, as Osorio is busy extending the Aquazzura product offer. After presenting a home line during Milan Design Week, Osorio is introducing the Tequila clutch to mark the brand’s birthday, flanking the Tequila sandal, and he will unveil a full-fledged handbag collection to retailers in July. This will be launched in the first quarter of next year.
The designer has approached this segment before with a capsule of 20 one-of-a-kind limited edition bags with semiprecious stones with French artist Béatrice Serre for the Venice Biennale. “This was sold out the same evening to collectors,” he said proudly.
The new handbag collection will be “versatile” but more focused on daywear “in communication” with the shoes. Osorio said the launch responds to a market request from partners and customers.
“I have been wanting to do this for a long time and I have had 10 years to perfect the formula. I think I finally found the right direction. It’s a very important category and it’s very rare for footwear brands to see handbags become a big part of their business,” Osorio said. The bags are also made in Italy.
In September, Aquazzura will also launch its first menswear shoe collection in the first quarter of next year. It will have “a real focus on comfort, for a smart casual collection, offering an alternative to sneakers,” said the designer, who admitted he is also eyeing eyewear, fragrances and cosmetics.
Company sales are expected to total between 66 million and 70 million euros in 2022 and Osorio said Aquazzura has seen “really high-double-digit growth” from 2019 and through the following years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been very lucky the company has been profitable from the first year,” he said.
Asked about the rumors surrounding a possible sale of the brand, Osorio said that “independence is rare and we love it, but we know that to grow to the next level, to sales of 200 or 300 million euros, you need a strategic partnership and cash. I don’t see it happening in 2022 or 2023, but in the short to mid-term, yes, and investors could also help expand our stores and our team.”
Wholesale accounts for 68 percent of total sales, but Osorio is eyeing an expansion of the brand’s retail network, which comprises 15 stores. “We want this channel to represent 60 to 70 percent of the business in the next few years,” he said. Recent openings include units in Paris and Madrid. In September, the biggest brand boutique will open in Florence. Osorio pays special attention to the interiors, given his passion for design and contemporary art, with one-of-a-kind pieces.
The U.S. is Aquazzura’s main market, representing between 40 and 45 percent of the total, followed by Europe and the Middle East, where Osorio said he’d seen “explosive growth” in the past three years. To wit, he is planning an expansion in Dubai and the opening of a second store in Doha, eyeing “a strategic partnership” in Saudi Arabia. Osorio, who was born in Colombia, is also focusing on South America and Mexico in particular. “We have a huge Latin American community of clients who also shop in Europe and in the U.S.,” he noted.
Online traffic was up 110 percent from 2021 and Osorio forecast the brand will almost double its web business by the end of the year. “Omnichannel last year was phenomenal, it’s where we see a really big driver of growth,” he said.
On June 15, Aquazzura unveiled a capsule collection with Mytheresa, inspired by the designer’s newfound love of diving “and the incredible coral reefs I visited in Bonaire and the Maldives last year,” he said. With submarine colors, the Meteorite Sandals come in bright and iridescent summer shades of blue, green and yellow plexiglass with matching crystals.
The capsules “bring excitement to the brand and offer an interesting and new point of view,” he said, adding that they step from “opportunity and friendships,” citing, for example, his collection with Marie-Louise Sciò, chief executive officer and creative director of Pellicano Hotels, on her Issimo platform.
“I don’t consider myself a fashion person, I am interested in the culture and what’s going on in the moment. I travel eight months of the year and I am fascinated by what people wear, where they are going, what’s happen in the world,” Osorio continued. “Culture moves me, not trends, I do what instinctively comes to me, whether it becomes a trend or not. Good design needs to stand the test of time, it should not be seasonal, for me it’s about making a women beautiful and feel amazing. If something is well-designed, it should be beautiful in 10 years. I hate the idea of things that are trendy. What is a trend now? Everything is a trend and nothing is a trend, you make the trends and with Instagram a trend can be created in a day and die a week later. Luxury should not be trendy, it should stand the test of time and be cherished because it’s well made. Luxury means that someone spent time thinking of the customer, thinking of how she’s going to wear that product and enjoy its to suit her life.”