Florentine leather goods brand Il Bisonte this week unveiled its first store in New York, a two-level 1,940-square-foot flagship on Bleecker Street. The unit forms a cornerstone of its plan to raise awareness and expand its wholesale business in department stores.
The ground floor of the flagship is being used for selling space, while the lower level, a stock room, will become the hub for Il Bisonte’s e-commerce platform in North America. Online sales are now managed in Florence.
The assortment features Il Bisonte’s popular handbags styles along with the brand’s spring collection, including the Curly shoulder bag in beach-y colors such as natural, geranium and turquoise, $475 for the small size and $615 for large.
The store also offers collections for men and a wide range of small leather goods and lifestyle accessories. Il Bisonte’s Worn With Love project, a dedicated area in the store, highlights the brand’s vintage pieces. An expert craftsman is on hand to revitalize previously owned products, giving them a second life thanks to a remise-en-forme and leather care service. The only other store to offer the Worn service is in Paris.
“We did lots of work internally and felt that the aging beauty of the leather is part of our value proposition,” said Sofia Ciucchi, who in 2017 joined the company as chief executive officer from Salvatore Ferragamo. “Our products become more beautiful the more you use them. We’re a very accessible type of luxury. The luxury means the product lasts forever; we’re there to repair it for its entire life. We also like the idea of reselling or exchanging products as part of the circular economy.”
Reselling products isn’t meant to become a business. “We’re acting as a platform to sell or exchange. We’re very keen to see how it evolves. We’re open to whatever a customer wants. We can provide a network of people who appreciate the seasoned products that have already lived a life.”
Il Bisonte sees the Bleecker Street flagship as the anchor for relaunching the wholesale business in the New York market. “This store has a special objective, not just produce retail sales. We’ll use it as a showroom. We have a space, an atelier, where we’ll have sales campaigns several times a year. We’re all looking at this store as a revamping tool for the entire market.”
The impetus for all the changes is Palamon Capitol Partners, which in 2015 invested in Il Bisonte, hiring Ciucchi, and appointing Giacomo Santucci chairman of the board. Founder Wanny Di Filippo is now honorary chairman and brand ambassador.
“We’ve been in the States for a long time,” Ciucchi said. “We first distributed in the U.S. in the late Seventies.” Since Palamon’s involvement, existing stores in Europe have been renovated and a new unit bowed in Milan. “They’ve pushed for some development in Asia and Hong Kong in order to get into China soon,” Ciucchi said, noting that store openings last year included two high-end Hong Kong shopping centers, IFC and K11.
The brand has added scarves, hats and a few simple sandal styles, and it’s developing shoes. “I don’t think of including ready-to-wear,” Ciucchi said. “Everything lifestyle. We’re doing leather furniture already.
“We heard about Bleecker Street after several years of trouble,” Ciucchi said, referring to a space of stores available for rent. “The street has always maintained a very special flavor and mood that’s in line with our brand. We call ourselves craftsman with a hippy heart.”