Brioni has tapped Alessandro Dell’Acqua as creative director of its women’s line. A spring pre-collection by the Neapolitan designer will bow at the end of June in Milan, followed by a runway show in September during Milan Fashion Week.
“Our goal is to grow our women’s business,” Andrea Perrone, chairman and chief executive officer of Brioni, said in an exclusive interview. Brioni is known for its tailored, handmade men’s suits, which account for 90 percent of the brand’s business. The executive said he expects the women’s division to grow to 15 percent of sales in two years. “Alessandro is an Italian designer in tune with our brand, with a deep knowledge of product, quality and production,” said Perrone. “At the same time, he is used to working with other important international companies and has a global vision.”
Dell’Acqua started his career in 1995 with a knitwear line called A A Milano, which later morphed into a steamy signature line. He also designed for La Perla, Borbonese and Malo. In February, he unveiled his new brand, N. 21, after the loss of the rights to his namesake line in June.
Dell’Acqua praised the manufacturing plant at the Penne, Italy-based Brioni, and marveled at the craftsmanship of the artisans working there. “I would like to inject lightness, softness and a more modern mood to the line, which was sometimes too rigid in the past,” said the designer. While maintaining the sartorial tradition of the brand, Dell’Acqua plans to add a more feminine and sensual look to Brioni’s suits, changing silhouettes and proportions. Among the materials, the designer mentioned silk mikado, Tasmanian wool and cashmere in a dusty color palette ranging from white to powder pink and opal or sand, cocoa, blue and black.
While eyeing Asia, Perrone said Brioni will continue to focus on core markets, such as Europe and the U.S. In Europe, which accounts for 40 percent of sales, the company over the next three years will roll out stores in Germany, Switzerland and Austria — countries where it only has a wholesale presence currently. The U.S. market continues to be “a reference” for the brand, accounting for 30 percent of sales. In China, where Brioni counts stores in Beijing and Shanghai, the firm plans to open eight to 10 boutiques in the next three years. There are 67 Brioni stores and 400 points of sale carrying the brand globally.
Financial figures for last year were not available, although earnings are to show growth. Perrone said the first quarter of this year “started well, with a double-digit growth in stores compared to last year.” For fiscal year 2008, Brioni reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 32 million euros, or $47.1 million at average exchange, on sales that were flat at around 206.5 million euros, or $303.8 million.
Perrone did not elaborate on a possible sale of part of the family-run company to outside investors. “There are so many rumors out there, but we are just focusing on the business,” said the executive. In November 2008, Brioni hired BNP Paribas to manage the sale of a minority stake, but then ruled out that possibility a year later. A family buyout took place four years ago, when Brioni ousted former ceo Umberto Angeloni.