MILAN — “You don’t know where to go, if you don’t know where you come from. In our case, we have this great heritage, which we are proud of,” said Alessandro Benetton of the Philippe Model brand, which on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its Milanese showroom and its first flagship.
Last July, 21 Investimenti, the private equity firm Benetton founded in 1992, acquired a majority stake in the Italian footwear label. The company’s name derives from the French artist and designer who in the Eighties invented the successful “Elastique,” a comfortable heeled shoe style crafted from elastic bands. Once a company spanning from haute couture accessories to interior design projects, Philippe Model was relaunched in 2008 by creative director Paolo Gambato as a men’s and women’s premium sneakers company priced at between $350 and $450. The brand is entirely manufactured in Italy’s Riviera del Brenta footwear district.
“The philosophy of 21 Investimenti is to find situations where we see the potentials for an acceleration of the business, which can depend on different factors. We try not to be pretentious in our approach and our aim is to support entrepreneurs in the development of the brands,” said Benetton, explaining the strategy behind his fund’s acquisitions. “In the case of Philippe Model, we start from very good bases, also considering the great heritage of the label. The main focus will be on exports, retail, new markets and on reinforcing the managing structure of the company.”
Earlier this month, 21 Investimenti acquired the Gianni Chiarini Group, which produces and distributes the Gianni Chiarini and GUM brands’ handbags and accessories collections.
The Philippe Model store is located on Milan’s Via Sant’Andrea in the heart of the Golden Triangle luxury shopping district. Both the showroom and the unit are designed by architect Marco Costanzi, and they pay homage to the French heritage of the label with the classic wooden flooring and a boiserie handpainted by Model himself. The designer, while not involved in the business anymore, still serves as an inspiration for the brand’s aesthetic. A more sleek and contemporary spin is introduced via brass and iron displays, as well as the showroom’s glass cubes, which show some of the brand’s key styles.
According to Philippe Model chief executive officer Andrea Pesaresi, the footwear company expects to open stores in Paris and London next year, while a flagship in New York is scheduled to open in 2019.
“In 2018, we will also open stores in Tokyo and Seoul with our local partners,” said Pesaresi, who highlighted that Italy accounts for 50 percent of the company’s business. “France and Germany are our biggest international markets, but we are also getting very good feedback from [South] Korea and Japan.”
Pesaresi said the U.S. and China will be two relevant markets for the future expansion of the label, which closed 2016 with revenues of 100 million euros, or $111 million euros at average exchange rates.
“We expect a double-digit growth in the next few years,” said Benetton, who forecast that 21 Investimenti will maintain its investment in the company “for a medium or long term, depending on the needs of the brand.” He also highlighted that 21 Investimenti is embracing an entrepreneurial, not financial, approach in the development of the company. “In these 24 years working in this sector, I’ve always tried to focus on growing all the business and managing aspects of a company, rather than focusing only on finance. Numbers are only a consequence of a strategic business plan,” he said.
An omnichannel strategy will be at the core of the company’s retail strategy, according to Pesaresi. On April 15, a magic mirror, allowing customers to easily explore the store’s offering, will be installed in the Milan’s boutique and “we will also offer a home delivery service for our customers,” Pesaresi said. “There must be a perfect integration between our brick-and-mortar and digital presence — the e-commerce, as well as the stores, don’t have only a commercial aim, but they are the business card of the brand — they have to communicate our storytelling.”
To boost its international visibility, Philippe Model will invest in digital media, also selecting influencers. “We will look at quality rather than quantity — we have to find personalities who really share our values,” said Pesaresi, adding that every six weeks a new video focused on a specific shoe style will be available on the company’s web site.