MILAN — Valentino is unveiling a new global store concept that is entirely in sync with its client-centric approach.
“This is consistent with the strategy laid out two and a half years ago, of repositioning the brand as a maison de couture,” said chief executive officer Jacopo Venturini in a joint interview with creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. “It reflects the history of the house and the intimate relation between the premiere and the client. This should be translated into a company strategy and in retail into a real contact with the customer.”
Valentino will gradually redesign its locations around the world starting this month as it also rebalances its retail and wholesale channels. The goal, said Venturini, is for retail to account for 80 percent of sales in three years, up from the current 65 percent. In 2019, retail represented 55 percent of the total.
However, Venturini underscored that wholesale “remains a relevant channel for an exchange of opinions with our partners.”
As part of this client-centric strategy, the executive said the “company culture” needed to be revisited, so as to avoid it being “merely good on paper.”
He contended that “it is fashionable to speak of a client-centric” strategy but that to do so “seriously, it is necessary to create a colleague-centric” culture. “We are customers of one another and this must be transferred into our points of sale.”
To this end, the organization was revised. In stores, Valentino now has team managers, and not department managers, which allows client advisers to sell all categories. They are helped by assistants to find merchandise in stock and optimize service, so that team managers can stay close to the customers throughout their shopping experience, and shoppers are never left waiting. “There must be an invisible machine of great efficiency,” observed Venturini. “We need to create desire and satisfy a need to escape.”
Piccioli emphasized that continuity and consistency are key. “The idea must be very clear, from the point of view of the show, to the communication and the store. Creativity must trickle down to the store without losing steam and energy,” the designer said.
At the center is the culture of couture, “so that the customer feels unique and emotions run through the experience. Boutiques that are the same everywhere and cold would not reflect the idea of couture,” Piccioli said.
To this end, the new store concept was created in-house, making it more adaptable to changes, and succeeds a blueprint unveiled in 2012 with architect David Chipperfield. “That was necessary and fundamental at that moment,” conceded Piccioli. Now, however, he feels the “need to bring the same level of emotions and uniqueness of the show to the store and stores that are all the same around the world do not reflect this well. We adapt the space to the collections and translate this identity.”
Venturini and Piccioli compared this concept to that of an art gallery, which maintains its identity, but adapts to the changes derived by the artworks on display, “celebrating and emphasizing them,” Venturini said.
In line with Piccioli’s idea of an inclusive Valentino, there has been an evolution so that stores may feel more like home. “You should not enter into a location that feels distant but into a space that welcomes you, this is fundamental, and the real change,” offered Piccioli.
So far, a flagship store with this new concept opened in Jeddah, at the Al Khayyat Center, in September.
This was followed by stores in Madrid and Venice last summer.
Three new stores will open in China by the end of the year, in Chengdu, while a boutique opened in Shanghai at Plaza 66 last week. In mid-May, a relocated store will be unveiled in Paris on Avenue Montaigne, while in August there will be a new opening on Madison Avenue in New York.
Approaching new markets, in mid- February a store will open in Geneve, a new market for Valentino.
There are now 209 Valentino stores. Next year, 24 will be added and 10 closed, reaching 223 units total.
Each store offers a different experience, with an aesthetic design idea conceived for different locations with distinctive elements.
Special areas will be reserved for private appointments, to enhance the feeling of intimacy and exclusivity.
The interiors allude to 1930s Art Déco motifs and a bold 1970s aesthetic, with details inspired by Roman buildings.
The color tones of the textile walls are a nod to the tailoring busts belonging to the world of couture. Ceramic tiles cover the façade, and floors are defined by iconic geometric motifs rendered in Botticino and Sahara Noir marbles. Onyx and wood are key elements, contributing to the sense of warmth and discreet luxury.
The company tapped specialist craftsmen to produce bespoke objects for the spaces: Massimiliano Pipolo created handmade ceramic door handles, characterized by organic shapes suspended between functionality and abstraction.
Fabio Cinti was tasked with creating geometric compositions as decorative objects in brass.
Alexandre Logé has created delicate chandeliers made of sculpted plaster, white objects with extending branches hanging luminously in the space.
Other standout details include Camaleonda sofas by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia in bespoke jewel tones, and graphic rugs by contemporary maker Golran.
Retail becomes increasingly important “exactly because there is also the online platform,” Piccioli said. “The physical space where you can be welcomed is even more important, to offer experience and emotions, not only to buy an object.”
High-spending client retention now stands at 80 percent, up from 40 percent in 2019, in areas such as Europe and America, Venturini said. “A loyal relation is built when the transaction is over, and the customer realizes that the choice was right. The client journey begins before they enter the store, this is very similar to the entertainment industry.”
Asked for an outlook, Venturini ventured a positive take for the end of the year, despite the social, political and economic uncertainties looming ahead for next year, relying on “a precise point of view, consistency and passion.”