MILAN — Borsalino was founded 163 years ago, but owner Haeres Equita is actively taking measures to keep the company up to date and in tune with the times.
“The world has completely shifted and we are adapting practically and reactively to the new order of things,” said executive chairman Philippe Camperio. The hat specialist participated in Milan digital fashion week by leveraging the Camera della Moda’s virtual showroom and showing its men’s spring 2021 collection.
Camperio is especially proud of having succeeded in maintaining the brand’s traditional production facilities in Italy’s Spinetta Marengo, near the town of Alessandria, while implementing new industrial measures, productivity and efficiency yet increasing employees’ health and safety.
The company has a production capability of 150,000 pieces a year, internally manufacturing the brand’s staple felt hats, between 70,000 to 80,000 pieces a year, and straw panama hats for a total of between 30,000 and 35,000 units a year. Borsalino has also extended its offer to textile and wool hats, outsourcing some parts of that production, but with plans to internalize these as well.
In September, the brand will present its women’s collection. “When we arrived at Borsalino, the women’s category accounted for 20 percent of sales,” Camperio said. “As per our business plan, we think we can increase that consumers’ share to 50 or 55 percent by 2023. Today, women’s hats represent 32 percent of revenues, so we are well in line with that plan, which proves that our strategy is working. It’s interesting to see that in some of our own stores our ladies’ shares have overtaken men’s. This is very encouraging.”
Camperio explained that in taking over Borsalino, “we established a three-way development strategy. One is territorial, the other is catering to a younger consumer and the third is brand extension.”
Borsalino is “fully and well represented” in the U.S. as well as in China, but Camperio is focused on further developing the two markets.
Speaking of a potential younger customer, the executive said that generation is “very demanding and not yet geared to felt, that’s why we are introducing wool and textile because we know they are keen on this.”
Camperio is looking at introducing new product categories. “We have tested the market and now we are holding off [given the current scenario], but it’s in the plans.”
In 2018, winning the auction set up by the label’s administrators through a deal valued at 6.4 million euros, Haeres Equita ended the troubled journey that started in December 2015 when it first took over the hatmaker, which had been hit by financial problems following the arrest of previous owner Marco Marenco for fraudulent bankruptcy and tax evasion related to a web of holdings.
Haeres Equita already owned the right to use the brand name, which it acquired in July 2017 from bank Mediocredito for a sum of 18 million euros.
Camperio addressed a “complex, lengthy and expensive journey to acquire Borsalino. I can genuinely say that we have not been lucky and now it’s even more challenging with COVID-19. Having said that, I am very proud to point out that in the three months of emergency we put together a think tank with a limited management team, heads of business units, to completely reshuffle our strategy. We are relatively small so we can be reactive and proactive and we can exit COVID-19 much stronger than if we had done nothing,” he observed. “I am very proud of what we have achieved. We had two priorities, one was to protect employees and I am happy to say that out of 140, not one was affected. We took very strict measures, had the [fall 2020] event on Feb. 22 during Milan Fashion Week and two days later we had implemented protections, sent everyone home safe, well ahead of many other brands and the government.”
The other priority was to protect the brand and its legacy. “We immediately rethought our production and business models. The idea is to gradually enter the fashion market, we believe we have a very strong chance and we could have a foothold given our legacy and market positioning.”
Borsalino will focus on carryovers and bestsellers, which account for 70 percent of sales. “The company does not need to be influenced by fashion’s traditional calendar or brands. We have very loyal clients, and our intention is to keep supplying these clients on a monthly basis.” The company will also work on four capsule collections, two of which will be aimed at collaborations with other brands and two will be themed.
“Watching market trends, colors, shapes and materials, we plan to be very innovative on capsules and limited editions.” Asked if Borsalino might be planning to produce hats for fashion brands, he did not elaborate, adding, “Not yet but soon.”
Borsalino is also launching an online store; it has completely restructured its business-to-consumer platform with a new web site that is more content-driven and more interactive as well as user-friendly, Camperio said. “We are very happy we completed this in less than six weeks,” he touted.
The company is also launching a business-to-business platform for wholesale accounts and e-tailers with very fast time-to-market deliveries.
“Before, when we were following fashion calendars and the two traditional seasons, we manufactured felt hats in seven weeks, delivering products between July and September. The production to sales cycle was quite long, five months. Now, with the new business model, working on a constant stock basis, we have deliveries every six weeks. This will grant wholesale clients more flexibility, avoiding very large orders twice a year, with the risk of missing sell-throughs. This way, we can monitor sales orders every six weeks, it’s innovative and disruptive, and we can do this because we own our production facility, and we will be able to cater to our clients this way as of fall 2020.”
Camperio said that, by placing the pieces on the brand’s B2B platform, they can be in stores 30 days later. “This has taken a lot of work, we have revisited our production cycle in terms of sourcing materials, leveraging the versatility of the team, and finishing the product as per a specific order.”
The company has 10 stores, including one in Paris, and Camperio said that he has been working on developing traveling pop-up stores, which are expected to be rolled out by January next year. Borsalino counts 350 wholesale clients worldwide.