Isaia is ready to make its mark on the retail scene.
This story first appeared in the April 9, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Italian luxury men’s wear brand is embarking on a store rollout plan that will include the opening of its first two flagships in this country this year. The company operates nine stores around the world.
“We started opening stores in 2009,” said Gianluca Isaia, the company’s global chief executive officer and third generation of the family to helm the privately held business. “We opened our first flagship in Milan, then some monobrand stores through…franchise partners in Moscow, Baku [Azerbaijan], Saint Petersburg [Russia], Kiev [Ukraine], Hong Kong, Yekaterinburg [Russia] and Macau [China]. Now we’re going to open in Los Angeles in June, Tokyo in July and New York City in September.”
Isaia said even though the company was founded in Naples in the Twenties and now sells to more than 230 stores in the U.S., Europe, Canada, the U.K., China, Japan and Russia, he believes this is the right time to expand the retail footprint.
“Today, we have a strong position in the market and the brand has found its own identity,” Isaia said, describing the company’s aesthetic as “a mix between tradition and a contemporary way to interpret the Napolitano sartorial positioning for the new gentleman.”
He said the U.S. represents just under 50 percent of the brand’s annual sales, which were 41 million euros, or around $44.6 million at current exchange, in 2014. “The U.S. is very strong for us,” he said. The other areas of strength for the brand are the “ex-Soviet Union,” he said, as well as Japan and China, the latter of which he said is “growing quite fast.” Isaia has a partnership with the Imaginex Group in China, where there are two stores, and the plan is to open another 12 in that country over the next four years. Potential sites include Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Xi’an. “It’s a great partnership,” he said.
Overall, Isaia said the plan is to reach 50 million euro, or $54.4 million, in sales this year, “and from there, we will hopefully double the business to 100 million euro [or $108.9 million] within seven years.”
Expanding retail will play a major role in reaching that number.
Outside of the U.S. and Tokyo units, Isaia said the plan going forward is to open stores in major European cities. “We would like to open stores in London and Rome, and we’re also thinking of opening in Paris,” he said.
He said he expects the total number of company-owned stores to be between 12 and 15. “That’s manageable. We’re a family business and would like to keep it that way,” Isaia said, noting the family doesn’t want a “hedge fund” or any other financial partner to get involved in the business. “We’re a growing company, but we’re still a family, and we hope the fourth generation will join us in the future.”
Isaia admitted more than doubling the business within the next seven years is an “ambitious” goal, but he’s confident the company can reach that number. “But I think we have to do it by ourselves, without any outside help.”
In addition to the flagship Isaia brand of luxury tailored clothing, sportswear and accessories, the company launched Eidos, a younger-skewed label, in 2013 — a line Isaia called “my new baby.” The label is getting a lot of buzz, but will not be carried in the Isaia stores since it is marketed as a stand-alone brand, according to James Shay, president of North America. Eidos suits start at around $1,450 and Isaia suits start at roughly $3,295 for off-the-rack.
Los Angeles and New York were chosen for the first two Isaia stores in the U.S. because they are the two most influential markets in the country, Shay said. “There’s the whole connection with Hollywood in L.A., and then the history and heritage in New York.”
Each store will incorporate elements that blend modernity and tradition and both will feature a custom tailor shop encased in glass so that customers can watch the tailors at work. There will also be a vintage Campari bar, a red lacquered piano that will double as a made-to-measure table as well as a Vesuvio Room, a special VIP space.
The Beverly Hills store, at 9533 Brighton Way, will be “very L.A.,” the company said, and will boast an ivy-covered exterior, large glass windows and contemporary features within 3,000 square feet. The location formerly housed an Emporio Armani store and the “characteristics of the building” are what prompted Isaia to take the plunge.
In New York, the new store will be more than 5,400 square feet at 817 Madison Avenue. It will include a private balcony overlooking the avenue, two fireplaces, a custom kitchen and an outdoor garden. “It’s a considerable space, but we need enough space for it to feel like a club,” Shay said. “We wanted to open in a luxury neighborhood, and 68th and Madison defines the Isaia guy.”
He said the first floor will be 1,250 square feet and will be merchandised like a showroom with one piece of every style offered. The glassed-in tailor shop will also be visible from there and from the street, he said, so the company can showcase the handwork that goes into its garments.
The mezzanine will sport around 800 square feet for made-to-measure and there will be 112 try-on garments in a “huge closet,” he said. “It’s going to be set up as a place people can come to learn about the brand. No place else in the world will have 112 garments to try on.”
Both stores will feature about 50 percent exclusive product including clothing, sportswear and accessories found nowhere else in the U.S. The overall mix will be 40 to 45 percent sportswear, 10 to 12 percent furnishings, 5 percent shoes and accessories and the balance clothing, Shay said. The L.A. store will have a more casual angle than the New York unit.
Isaia is carried in Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, and Neiman Marcus and Barneys in L.A., Shay said. But instead of competition, the Isaia stores are expected to have a “halo effect” on the brand and help raise its visibility, according to Sarrah Candee, director of marketing and public relations.
Both stores will offer special programming and experiences. Candee said these will include partnering with other high-end brands and experiences on art and cultural events such as wine tastings and art exhibitions.
Isaia is not the only Italian luxury label to be shining a spotlight on retail. Kiton recently opened a 2,500-square-foot store off Union Square in San Francisco as part of its plan to add some 20 units to the 52 it currently operates worldwide. About six will be in key markets in the U.S. The most recent one opened last May at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, a 500-square-foot location that sells only men’s accessories and sportswear.
In addition, Milan-based Boglioli has signed a lease to open a flagship at 10 Bond Street on the northwest corner of Bond and Lafayette Streets in the NoHo section of Manhattan. The two-level flagship will have 1,132 square feet of space on the ground floor and 1,000 square feet on the lower level and will be housed in a building designed by Selldorf Architects that will boast 107 feet of frontage. Isaacs and Company’s Joel Isaacs, David Baker and Charlotte Sardet represented the developer of the site and Baker also represented Boglioli.