MILAN — Apulia’s stance as a historical fashion district is to be once again globally recognized, according to Luciano Donatelli, entrepreneur, fashion consultant and a former Ermenegildo Zegna group manager. Donatelli is working on creating a holding or a “consortium with coordinated production and one single operative system” called Apulia Investments & Co.
The project will leverage “the land of tailors,” said Donatelli, where small and medium-sized companies work for Italian luxury brands from Gucci to Chanel, he said, and where every fashion category can be produced, from children’s wear to bridal and accessories. He has teamed with Fabio Mazzocca, founder of communication and marketing firm Wake Up, based in Apulia’s Barletta, to promote and develop this project.
A conversation with Donatelli is a lesson in the history of fashion. Over the years, he has initiated prestigious licenses with brands such as Gucci and Valentino and was president of industry associations Confindustria Biella and vice president of Confindustria Piemonte.
“There are more than 200 dormant brands in the world, and around 40 of these are in Europe, stalled by a generational gaps or financial problems,” said Donatelli, who is looking at buying a number of these brands and have them produced in Apulia. “We are rediscovering the craftsmanship of the area. We want to create a stable system for long-term growth. Apulia has an incredible potential and a long tradition in textiles and apparel, but it does not have strong brands. We want to change that through the acquisition of these sleeping brands.”
The production districts in Apulia include: innerwear in Andria; swimwear and jeans in Lecce; T-shirts, sweatshirts and shoes in Barletta; outerwear and pants in Martina Franca and Corato, and women’s elegant shoes in Trani.
Donatelli explained that the pole will work on private labels for department stores in the U.S., Japan and Russia. “Customers today are seeking value for price and luxury shoppers, Millennials in particular, increasingly recognize quality and authenticity of a product,” observed Donatelli. “We want to be prepared, as there are growth opportunities in the luxury or aspirational luxury segments.
This is an additional step in the wave of re-shoring seen in Italy. Earlier this month, Benetton unveiled a collection of knits, to be developed into other categories, entirely made in Treviso, Italy, emphasizing its expertise in the category and the potential of locally made products.
Apulia Investments is receiving a fresh injection of local and European funds. The goal is also to create an academy and train new workers.
The potential is the production of 140,000 pieces per year, and of 300,000 in five years.
Donatelli expects the first part of the project to report revenues of around 100 million euros, or around $109 million at current exchange rates, in five years.
The entrepreneur can rely on a personal archive of five million designs of fabrics for knits, ties or shirts among some, gathered over the past 40 years and spanning from 1906 to the Nineties, which could be instrumental for the start-ups.