LONDON – Matchesfashion.com is taking its retail show to the Italian coast in a partnership with Pellicano Hotels that ups the ante on experiential retail, and puts a new spin on traditional hospitality.
WWD has learned that the retailer and the hotel group are planning a series of consumer-facing events aimed at satisfying customers’ appetites for fashion, travel, food, history and culture. The “tour” starts on May 15 in London and runs until June 7 in Italy.
The Il Pellicano x Matchesfashion.com Italian Grand Tour will see customers attend a cocktail and dinner at the retailer’s 5 Carlos Place townhouse in London’s Mayfair. A few weeks later, they’ll also be able to hang out and shop on a Thirties yacht that will be transformed into a pop-up resortwear shop.
The boat will sail from Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, Tuscany, to the group’s other hotels: La Posta Vecchia, outside Rome, and Il Mezzatorre on the island of Ischia. The aim is to appeal both to Matches and Il Pellicano customers, who likely have lots in common. The event is not limited to VIP customers, and anyone can join.
The event, part of the retailer’s quest to be “the most personal luxury shopping site,” follows the opening of Matchesfashion.com’s temporary townhouse at L.A.’s inaugural Frieze Art Fair in February. The townhouse at Paramount Studios hosted several “In Residence” programs with tastemakers to engage clientele, who were also able to shop an edit of men’s and women’s fashion in private suites a few steps from the fair.
Jess Christie, chief brand officer at Matchesfashion.com, said the partnership with Il Pellicano has been forged in a similar spirit. “We want to bring enjoyment back to physical retail and create a sense of community. We like the idea of taking 5 Carlos Place ‘on tour,’ and then letting the customer decide how he, or she, wants to engage with us,” she said.
Christie said the joy of travel is important to Matches’ male and female customers alike. To wit, the event will see Marie-Louise Sciò, creative director and chief executive officer of her family’s hotel group, offer up her guide to Italian style and tips on the regions where the hotels are located.
Sciò and Robert Rabensteiner, a stylist and fashion editor, have also done edits of the Matches’ summer and vacation collections for men and women: On May 15, the Il Pellicano “Curated By” collections will land on Matchesfashion.com and at the 5 Carlos Place townhouse.
That same day, an Il Pellicano Hotel installation will open at 5 Carlos Place, with Sciò whipping up an “imaginative installation” of the yacht experience that will be shared across the retailer’s digital channels. Throughout the month of May there will be an Italian pop-up café in the attic at 5 Carlos Place.
On May 31, the Italian leg of the tour will begin when the Thirties yacht docks off Hotel Il Pellicano in Tuscany. In addition to the pop-up on the yacht, Matches be taking over hotel suites and part of the Il Pellicano shop with its vacation collections. A private shopping team will be on hand on the yacht and at the hotels.
The tour will then move south and onto La Posta Vecchia Hotel, and on June 7 the trip will wrap up at the Mezzatorre Hotel and Thermal Spa in Ischia, which reopens on April 18 under the Pellicano Group’s ownership.
The idea was the brainchild of Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matches, and Sciò. “Travel is a passion of mine and we have developed a very significant vacation business over the past eight years,” said Kingham, who described the Pellicano Hotels and Sciò as “the epitome of Italian elegance.”
Sciò said it was always her dream to do a pop-up on a boat. “When I spoke to Matchesfashion and Natalie about the Vacation edit it was around the same time we signed our third hotel, and it made so much sense to partner on this project,” she said.
In an interview, she said her vision of “hôtellerie,” or the hospitality industry, is not a closed world, but rather “a combustion of opposites. I strongly believe in the power of collaborations and fusions, which is what makes the difference today. We aim to bring the Pellicano style into the game, breaking the boundaries of the hospitality world and embracing a broader concept of lifestyle.”
Sciò added that influences from fashion, art, culture and cinema “redesign and define” the essence of a hotel. The Matches project, she said, is “a good opportunity to let more people know about our hotels and our philosophy.”
Christie said that travel-related stories are among the best-performing content on the Matchesfashion.com site, and the team plans to leverage the imagery, talks and takeaways from the grand tour on its site and social channels.
The 5 Carlos Place townhouse opened six months ago and its mission from the get-go was to forge close relationships with customers, and appeal to their interests beyond fashion. The 7,000-square-foot space in Mayfair has five floors and, in addition to retail, offers a kitchen, chef’s table and café, a courtyard and a broadcasting hub.
Matches wanted a space that could lend itself to a range of experiences, from one-on-one shopping appointments to cultural events, culinary experiences and plenty of Instagram moments.
Since the opening last September, Matches has hosted myriad events — retail, cultural, educational and culinary. It has also launched a podcast series, with the likes of Norma Kamali, Mario Sorrenti, Luella Bartley, Christian Louboutin and Richard Quinn taking part.
Christie said these moments, on land, on sea, or beamed from the broadcasting hub, are not about “return on investment,” but about building a long-term relationship with the customer, who is out to learn and to socialize whether or not she shops.