“I will remember this Pitti [Uomo] for all my life: first for the anxiety in making everything work, and then for all the celebrations,” said Patrizia Biondi, president of Sevenbell Group, which controls Italian denim label Roy Roger’s.
The brand is to mark its 70th anniversary during the menswear trade show, which opens Tuesday and runs through Thursday. To fete the milestone, in addition to presenting a celebratory collection, the company will host an event Tuesday night at Palazzo Vecchio with a live performance by Planet Funk followed by the release of a short movie directed by photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber.
The collaboration with Weber is part of a larger repositioning and image-enhancing strategy Roy Roger’s kicked off in the last few years, when the company tapped the likes of Rankin and Francesco Carrozzini to photograph its campaigns.
Biondi underscored Weber’s role in portraying a “certain world of denim, especially the American one” throughout his career, mentioning vintage ads of Ralph Lauren, for example. “So when the opportunity to work with him occurred, just in time for our 70th year, it was like coming full circle for us,” she said.
Roy Roger’s was founded by Biondi’s father Francesco Bacci, owner of the “Manifatture 7 Bell,” which produced workwear in cotton and gabardine in Campi Bisenzio, near Florence, after his return from a trip to New York. There, Bacci came across all matter of denim and made a deal with the famed Cone Mills Corp. to supply the fabric. When back in his homeland, Bacci launched what is viewed as the first blue jean pants made in Italy from American denim. To further mark his fascination with the U.S., he named the label after an American tailor who at the end of the 19th century used to make overalls for Californian farmers.
Bacci and his wife Giuliana were also credited with being the first in the country to launch a women’s collection of denim pants in the ‘60s, expanding their creative approach from strictly workwear-like pieces to more casual garments.
The tweaks and innovative solutions the founders and the following two generations of the family introduced over seven decades will be highlighted in the anniversary collection at Pitti Uomo.
The range will trace the evolution of the brand through the replica of five signature pieces from different decades, each marked on the garment with the respective year, as well as additional styles and a series of T-shirts, checkered shirts, sweaters and accessories to complete the looks.
The key pieces will include five-pocket jeans marked by the brand’s signature triangle logo and zippered pockets — a patent Roy Roger’s introduced in the ‘50s to enable men to safely store their personal objects while working — along with high-waisted denim pants for women, a washed denim jacket and patchwork shirts.
As an additional highlight of the milestone, the organizers of the trade show decided to bestow this edition’s Pitti Uomo award on the company, acknowledging its history and the beneficial influence it had on the territory. Biondi is particularly proud of the achievement, especially since former recipients have included Giorgio Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Gianfranco Ferré, Brunello Cucinelli and Diesel, to name a few.
“Looking back, there have been plenty of pivotal moments, times when we had to confront ourselves with new companies on the rise and crazy competition that marked radical changes. Just think that jeans used to be the most democratic garment and now every luxury powerhouse does denim, too,” noted Biondi. She also referenced the disruptive approach Diesel and Replay had when they first launched “as they opened standalone stores and reached consumers directly while we were working with wholesalers. So there were many moments we had to regroup, restart and take different roads.”
The company in 2021 reported sales of 20.5 million euros and Biondi forecast year-end revenues will reach the 25 million-euro target.
The brand’s main change of pace occurred in the ’90s, when Biondi’s husband Fulvio gave the brand a boost with a repositioning in better stores and a structured marketing strategy that included an enhanced focus on communication — all aspects Biondi said would have been “unthinkable for my father.”
But Fulvio Biondi believed “there’s no future if you don’t have a real story,” so storytelling became key while collections changed to explore new designs, washes and treatments to adapt to trends and the needs of the market.
“While male consumers are traditionally loyal — they find a style that fits them and keep buying that for the rest of their life — women want options, and our collections had to reflect that. We needed to have alternatives in the assortment,” the president said.
“My husband was also very keen to launch home collections. We had a denim table and sofa in our home, as he believed that we always needed to offer something more, to create a sort of lifestyle,” recalled Biondi, adding that a more cautious and apparel-oriented approach was eventually decided upon instead.
In the last decade the couple’s sons Niccolò and Guido, who serve as chief executive officer and creative director, respectively, also boosted distribution, launching standalone stores for the brand.
“It was a real challenge for us since we never had direct control of retail and we had to come up with a whole concept and design total looks,” recalled Biondi. Roy Roger’s now has stores in Florence, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna and Padova, and is scouting locations in Milan to reopen a unit there after a stint in central Corso Venezia didn’t fit with the brand’s target customer.
The brand is also available at 900 multibrand doors in the Italy, and while the company is primarily focused on its domestic market, Biondi is eager to look outside Italy’s borders and expand its e-commerce.