MILAN — As a savvy industry veteran, Michele Norsa is fully aware of the opportunities, but also of the huge challenges, that independent labels have to face to do business in Italy.
For this reason, Norsa, who is a member of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group’s board of directors and is executive vice chairman of Salvatore Ferragamo, is putting his skills and knowledge at the disposal of the next generations of fashion entrepreneurs.
In particular, about five years ago, through his daughter Ilaria, he met the trio behind Blazé Milano, the Italian niche luxury brand founded in 2013 by former stylists Corrada Rodriguez D’Acri, Delfina Pinardi and Maria Sole Torlonia. Norsa began to watch the brand until he became a strategic adviser.
“The fashion industry gave me a lot and I believe it’s important for myself to give something back, and one of the ways I can express my gratitude to the industry is to offer some advice to emerging labels with very good potential,” he said.
The executive praised Blazé’s focus on delivering a high-end, precise product offering, centered on the blazer as a versatile piece able to empower women and help them express their own personality, as well as on its communication strategy. “What pushed me to collaborate with them has also been the girls’ rational, professional and humble approach to business, which is key at every level,” he said.
According to Blazé managing director Filippo Fani Ciotti, the company has a turnover of 4 million euros, which is expected to grow between 20 and 25 percent in 2021. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization stand at 20 percent of sales.
Starting from the resort 2022 season, the brand brought the sales operations in-house, ending the partnership with Milan-based 247 showroom. Following this strategic move, Blazé saw its orders increase 100 percent compared to 2020, when the business was deeply affected by the pandemic, and 25 percent compared to 2019.
“I think that Blazé is taking the right steps to grow its international business and, at the same time, it’s preserving that perfectionism and that attention to detail that are crucial to succeed in the luxury segment,” said Norsa, adding that, “if the market returns to stable, normal conditions, Blazé is very close to making a significant leap.”
In particular, Norsa highlighted that the biggest goals for the brand will be the development of complementary categories enriching the product offer now focused on blazers, and international expansion, with a focus on Asia. “With a single product category, you can double your business, but it’s very hard to grow five times,” he said.
In Asia, Fani Ciotti said Blazé is seeing great results with its Atelier service, which enables consumers to create their own one-of-a-kind blazer.
While Norsa thinks that it’s too early for the brand to enter the direct retail business, pop-up shops inside department stores or in key resort locations might be interesting to boost the business and gain international visibility.
While continuing its process of independent growth, Blazé is becoming an appealing brand for investors, according to Norsa. “However, opening the capital to an investor too early might be risky and at the same time the current bank system is offering interesting options for independent entrepreneurs,” he opined.
“In the future, we might consider to team up with a partner,” said Fani Ciotti, adding that “it won’t be only a financial partner, but also someone with the technical skills to help us boost the whole operations.”
Blazé is presenting its spring 2022 collection on Wednesday at Milan’s Tommaso Calabro art gallery, where the brand will also unveil an exhibition of Polaroid pictures, portraying the lineup worn by a diverse cast of international talents.