MILAN — Patricia Gucci’s luxury luggage and travel-ready brand Aviteur is taking off.
More than three years after introducing the project in Paris, the designer, the daughter of Aldo Gucci, is opening the doors to the brand’s first showroom in central Milan, on Via Bigli, a stone’s throw from tony Via Montenapoleone.
Hinged on redefining the airplane carry-on, the brand has navigated the pandemic with resilience, boosting its high-end clientele, which Gucci described as private-jet and first-class travelers, and select retail partners including Net-a-porter, Harrods and Artemest, the Italian craftsmanship-geared online destination.
“We started as rookies, we had no idea of what we were doing, other than what I wanted, the vision of what I liked and design,” Gucci said about introducing the venture in 2019, while stressing that her primary goal was to bring back beauty in traveling habits.
“The project was not looking in the future as in making a brand, but more about creating something excellent, bringing back my influences and inspirations,” she said. “I’m not a big fashionista, but I do know one thing, that when I go into a shop looking for handbags or leather goods, I find a different standard than what I would like.”
The collection debuted with a single product, a carry-on crafted in Varese, in northern Italy, boasting a polycarbonate case covered in Italian calf leather partly bearing a woven Paglia di Vienna caning motif, silent wheels developed by car engineers in Turin, and a patented futuristic clear polycarbonate handle.
“We received lots of praise for the project, everyone came to the Paris presentation wondering ‘let’s see what Patricia Gucci is doing.’ But this spoke for itself…it was acknowledged as a gorgeous product, they could see the quality and the fact that it was Made in Italy was also a big lift,” she added.
Four months after the launch, the world froze in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Aviteur didn’t yield to it. The brand’s mix of direct-to-consumer and light wholesale distribution helped it press on.
“We had one big advantage compared to other brands, because we didn’t have any owned store, we didn’t have a huge staff or manufacturing base. Whereas everybody else had big overheads to sustain we had a pretty light asset,” said Gregory Lee, Gucci’s partner and the company’s chief commercial officer.
“What we did is we retrenched in our mountain retreat and started designing and developing the range [turning Aviteur] from a single product company to having 29 skus,” he said, mentioning the introduction of the weekender bag, backpacks, products for office life and small leather goods.
Gucci described the Milan showroom as a “big game changer,” in that it represents Aviteur’s house and helps the company fully showcase its identity.
Inspired by Gucci Galleria on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, a private suite developed by Aldo Gucci for the brand’s New York top-tier clients in the ’80s, the space features paintings from the Italian Surrealist Riccardo Tommasi Ferroni, Giuseppe Guerreschi and life-size sculptures from Emilio Greco, all drawn from Gucci’s private collection.
Throughout the pandemic, Aviteur reinforced its direct-to-consumer strategy, Lee explained, noticing clients were not afraid to purchase their carry-ons despite travel bans and a price tag of 6,950 euros.
“We didn’t see much of a slowdown, people continued to buy, even though they couldn’t travel….A lot of of our customers are architects, art collectors, and they bought it because they liked the product; it’s not the kind of product you have to put away,” Lee said.
Considering the new Milan space and a different retail landscape, wholesale operations are back on Gucci and Lee’s agenda.
“We had started with the idea of marketing initiatives and strategies all based around digital, more than on the physical presence with many distributors. That wasn’t only from a margin perspective but also because we noticed there was a changing behavior whereby consumers were moving to online more and more,” Lee said.
The Milan showroom serves as a consumer-facing, tax-free shopping destination and the duo plans to forge ties with local luxury hotels to lure customers in.
The brand is tightly distributed but more deals are on the horizons, Gucci and Lee said. They will hit Selfridges in May and discussions are undergoing with Rinascente.
“The idea from the start has always been to have one retailer in each key city in key demographics: London, Paris, New York, Milan, Shanghai possibly, but not more than that. Not lots of stores everywhere but select key partners,” Lee said.
Building on the notion of classics, “in the good sense of the word,” as she put it, Gucci is gearing up to introduce items to the Aviteur range including canvas and leather bowling bags, tote bags and smartphone holders, in addition to a pet carrier, among others. They will hit the brand’s online stores and key partners in May.
In late March, the duo will hit New York with a trunk show at Artemest Galleria in Chelsea to introduce the project to the American market.