MILAN — “The positive feedback and success we had in such a short time is surprising,” said Gianni Castiglioni, chief executive officer of Plan C, the fashion brand launched last year with his daughter and creative director Carolina. “But if the product is well-liked, the rest is all a consequence.”
The affable executive isn’t one to boast, but Plan C, into only its second collection, which will be presented here today, has already racked up orders by top retailers including Browns, Le Bon Marché, Lane Crawford, Mytheresa.com, Joyce in Hong Kong and SKP in Beijing, as well as Biffi and 10 Corso Como in Italy.
“Plan C is a really fresh and artistic collection with playful silhouettes and layering, playing with masculine and feminine style and mixing materials,” said Jennifer Cuvillier, style director at Le Bon Marché. “The DNA of the line is really strong and doesn’t look like anyone else. Carolina Castiglioni has a real vision and talent.”
In the U.S., Plan C has an exclusive agreement with Barneys New York, with the spring collection carried in seven doors, which will increase to eight for fall.
“The collection looks refined and sophisticated, but still whimsical,” said Barneys fashion director Marina Larroudé. “The color combination of the pieces felt very fresh and unique to the brand. Plan C offers a whole new proposition in an aesthetic that’s different from what else we are seeing in the market. We were immediately drawn to it.”
Castiglioni underscored the importance of the Japanese market, which accounts for one-third of the brand’s business.
The label enters Milan Fashion Week with a local partner, Paragraph, a company controlled by Mitsui Group, which is Plan C’s exclusive Japanese distributor. “I think that our Japanese clients perfectly understand the specific aesthetic and philosophy behind our brand,” said the ceo, who has decades-long experience of that market since his time as ceo of Marni, which also had a solid business in Japan. He touted the “loyalty” and sophistication of Japanese consumers.
Starting this month, department stores Umeda Hankyu in Osaka, Kata Iwataya in Fukuoka and Ginza Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, have begun to carry Plan C with temporary installations. This anticipated the opening, on Feb. 22, of Plan C’s first flagship, a 1,080-square-foot unit in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood.
The flagship will carry the brand’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections, along with a series of limited-edition styles created for the store.
Carolina Castiglioni said the atmosphere and vintage pieces at the brand’s headquarters on Via Visconti di Modrone — an apartment where her great-grandmother created the fur company Ciwifurs in the early Sixties, which became a well-known licensee for several designer brands — is the inspiration for the Tokyo boutique. “To add a more contemporary touch, I worked with Florentine artist Duccio Maria Gambi,” explained the designer. Gambi experiments with stone, concrete casting and plastic laminate. “We worked together extremely well,” said Castiglioni, adding that he developed special elements in those materials for the store and designed the cashier and the racks.
In addition, pieces by custom jewelry brand Aliita will be showcased inside customized displays integrated into the space’s concrete columns.
Plan C is mirrored after Carolina, who has a clear point of view, a strong color sensibility and distinctive style, juxtaposing classic and high-tech, masculine and feminine, discreet and bold elements. The designer has an artisanal approach and the collections are all made in central Italy’s Abruzzo region, with the goal of producing clothes that will have a long-term life.
“Knitwear worked very well in the first season and we aimed at another comprehensive offer for fall,” said the designer, who also offered a strong lineup of shirts and outerwear. “It’s what I like and how I want to dress, so it’s easy to understand and to communicate,” she said, adding that she has leveraged social media, Instagram in particular, to spread the word about the collection.
In a preview of the fall collection, sweatshirts with glossy, arty graphics reproduce pictures of Carolina Castiglioni’s children, and there are viscose pleated skirts; maxi cotton trenchcoats embellished with applied pockets rendered in a technical fabric, and a corduroy suit peppered with geometric patches.
The designer is expanding her accessories, but only to complement the core ready-to-wear offer. Examples include sandals with sculptural metallic heels and large soles or flats with ribbons to wrap around the ankle and coated canvas totes.
Retail prices range from between $700 and $1,150 for knits; $1,700 and $2,800 for coats; $990 and $2,000 for dresses, and $550 to $850 for pants.
Pricing has been a strong consideration for the Castiglionis since the beginning, and they have been aiming for “reasonable” ones, aiming to make high fashion more accessible, and filling what they thought was a gap in the market. While still a start-up, the company expects to report sales of 5 million euros in 2019.
With the spring 2019 collection, the brand will also be available on web sites the likes of Ssence, 24 Sèvres, Browns, Farfetch, Mytheresa and Lane Crawford. “We want to be very selective, with one partner per region,” said Gianni Castiglioni. “We want to remain a family group, contain the size of the brand, remaining niche and competing with our quality.”
At Marni, Carolina Castiglioni held the title of director of special projects. At Plan C, her brother Giovanni serves as operations director.
Renzo Rosso’s OTB took full control of Marni in 2015 and the Castiglioni family exited the following year. Marni is now designed by Francesco Risso, a Prada alum, whose first collection for the brand bowed for fall 2017.