MILAN — It’s not exactly a business card, but the cap that Golden Goose Deluxe Brand chief executive officer Silvio Campara wears says it all — it reads “Sneakers Maker.”
Flanked by chairman Patrizio di Marco, the two men share a friendly and easy manner, the same tall and slim build, energy and can-do attitude. Asked what their objective is in leading the buzzy sneaker brand, they both respond “having fun” is a priority. However, this belies focused business plans and razor-sharp strategies.
Turning serious, Campara said the goal is to continue to expand at a 30 percent organic clip. Revenues almost doubled since the acquisition of Golden Goose by Carlyle in 2017, to 186 million euros last year from 100 million euros in the 2016 fiscal year. When it was acquired, Golden Goose was valued at 420 million euros, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 32 million euros. Since March 2017, the company has opened 50 stores, reaching a total of 58 last year, and the brand is available at around 900 wholesale accounts.
Di Marco, Gucci’s chairman and chief executive officer before Marco Bizzarri, joined Golden Goose as chairman in September 2018, succeeding Marco De Benedetti, who remained a director and who is managing director and co-head of Carlyle’s Europe Buyout group, the label’s parent fund.
Asked what attracted him to Golden Goose, di Marco, in his first interview since his arrival, said Carlyle had “decided to set off at a different pace,” after exponential growth, and that he was “absolutely surprised by the performance. I’ve seen a few companies in my days and I was impressed by the numbers and the profitability but, actually, what convinced me was meeting the shareholders, who are real entrepreneurs.” Di Marco, who before Gucci held executive roles at brands such as Bottega Veneta, spearheading its turnaround in the early Aughts, and Prada, and Campara are also shareholders.
However, di Marco insists that it was the personal relationship with Campara and the other company managers that sealed the deal. “I wasn’t looking for size and the brand is simpatico, it has a cool history and it has enormous potential.”
To be sure, both di Marco and Campara are also more focused on continuing to build the relationship with Golden Goose’s customers, whom they view as the cornerstone of the brand’s success.
“Golden Goose customers are loyal and they become collectors,” said Campara, whipping out his phone and showing how “people can tell their stories” on Instagram at #deargolden. To wit, in a video a customer from Amsterdam presents her closet brimming with rows of Golden Goose sneakers. “It looks like a store display,” said Campara proudly and marveling at the number of designs owned by the follower.
To further fuel its relationship with customers, Golden Goose is officially unveiling a new store concept in its flagship in Milan’s artsy Brera district on Feb. 24 at the tail end of Milan Fashion Week. The new concept introduces the Lab, which allows customers to personalize their sneakers at an additional cost of 200 euros.
“The goal is to bring the artisanal Venetian tradition in-store, for a one-to-one experience, behind closed doors,” explained Campara.
Customers choose accessories and treatments to age or brush the shoes, for example, with the help of an artisan, making each pair a unique piece. The experience is filmed and sent to customers, who can choose to share it on their social media. For the first time, the store also carries eyewear, which is exclusive to the location. Additional Labs will open at the brand’s New York, Dubai Mall, Seoul and Tokyo stores.
While Golden Goose achieved much of its success with the Superstar sneaker, which offers 400 variations in one year and still accounts for 35 percent of the total business — or 55 percent of the sneaker business, which in turn represents 85 percent of total sales — the brand now offers total look collections for men and women. The women’s division accounts for 70 percent of sales.
Asked if they worry about a possible slowdown of the sneaker category, both executives responded in the negative. “People like to be comfortable, it’s a social phenomenon,” said Campara. “The Superstar continues to generate creativity. We never impose models on customers, it’s all organic. There is not a strategy to drive one design or another.”
“Yes, people have changed how they dress, but what is fundamental here is the authenticity,” contended di Marco. “Many brands, also in luxury, have jumped on the sneaker bandwagon, but eventually they will have to pay the price in terms of sincerity and authenticity.”
Campara also underscored that Golden Goose feeds off “scarcity,” as there is no restocking. “Once a style is sold out, that’s it, and customers know that either they buy what they like or forget it.” The executive said the brand’s first collaboration was with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White in 2016.
Also, the label is sold only at full price, and, while careful not to dilute it, Campara has made sure that “if a customer is in New York, they can find a different offer if they shop at Nordstrom or Barneys. There are some designs in the wholesale channel, others only in our stores and still others online.”
The U.S. accounts for 20 percent of sales; Europe represents 50 percent of the total, including Italy, which has a 20 percent share, and Asia accounts for 30 percent of revenues.
Golden Goose plans to open 20 stores this year, mainly in the U.S. and Asia. In the former, units in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Boston and New Jersey are in the pipeline.
By the end of the year, the company will move to a new showroom space in Milan covering 7,000 square feet and it will also open a museum and school in Marghera, near Venice, where the brand was established in 2000 by founders Alessandro Gallo and Francesca Rinaldo.
“There is a tribe that follows Golden Goose, we don’t have huge communication budgets, we don’t do ad campaigns or shows, we don’t shout and we grow through creativity and word of mouth. But the sky is the limit,” said di Marco.