The Loretta Caponi brand is seeking global expansion.
After introducing a tailored ready-to-wear line for spring 2018 to mark its 50th anniversary, as an evolution of its handcrafted innerwear, loungewear and home collections, the Florence-based firm born out of an artisanal atelier is banking on profitable yet sustainable growth.
“There is quite a lot going on: The brand is extremely niche and we wish to expand that niche of customers, without compromising, keeping the exclusivity of our products, not expanding like wild fire, selecting relevant locations instead, in order to keep our target clientele and keeping up with the sartorial products we’ve always offered,” said Guido Conti Caponi, chief executive officer of the brand, mapping out organic, slow-paced growth.
The expansion plan includes holding several trunk shows in key cities worldwide, setting up pop-up shops at locations “where we already have a following,” as well as expanding the network of retailers.
Conti Caponi explained that the aim of trunk shows is “to meet with private clients and possibly retailers in their own countries, so that we can help local retailers in building brand awareness and draw curiosity around us.”
“Experiencing customers’ feedback is really gratifying and has given us the courage to keep growing these initiatives, so much so that our goal is to have one trunk show per month throughout 2018 and 2019, along with collections’ presentations and pop-ups,” he said.
Following successful iterations in Beijing, Taipei, Monte Carlo, Dubai, Palm Beach, Fla., Miami and Hong Kong, among others, the brand is gearing up to embark on another trip this fall. Right after unveiling the spring 2019 women’s rtw collection with a presentation to be held during Milan Fashion Week at the Palazzo Parigi venue on Sept. 20 and 21, the company will bring its format to Monte Carlo that month, before London, Shenzhen and Hong Kong in October.
The executive contended that the strategy is “largely in line with our production model, as we have always been accustomed to take private, bespoke orders from our clients, so this is just a natural evolution of our business model: we simply bring our atelier to different locations all over the world.”
Trunk shows have proven successful according to the ceo, as he noted that many a retailer has started to show interest. To wit, Belma Gaudio, a former client and owner of London’s holiday-themed temporary store Koibird, has partnered with the brand on a special reedition of the spring 2018 collection, while fashion consultant Amanda Brooks has selected the brand among the labels available at her Oxfordshire, England, shop.
The same strategy has attracted retailers and consumers in the Asia-Pacific region, which is a growing market for the company. Coinciding with the October trunk show in Hong Kong, the brand will install a pop-up shop at the Landmark shopping mall, adding one retail unit to the city where the label has been carried at Joyce since its first season.
In Beijing, the latest trunk show provided the brand with a new retailer. The SKP department store, which carries the home and children’s wear collections, is “interested in installing a corner dedicated to all our product’s categories,” Conti Caponi said. The executive added that mainland China “is a market which has significantly overcome our expectations; private clients as well as retailers there are really curious about the exclusivity of our products and the story of our family.”
Conti Caponi explained that the wholesale channel is starting to benefit from such a business plan and rapidly growing despite still representing a small percentage of the overall business.
Although private clients and directly operated retail still represent the main sales drivers, in the first six months of 2018 the wholesale channel grew 40 to 50 percent compared to the same period last year. “Despite our 50-plus-year in the business, we are still a ‘start-up’ company so this is a discreet satisfaction. Starting from our second [ready-to-wear] collection [fall 2018] clients have started to become loyal to the brand and retailers have understood we were able to absorb their demand,” he noted.
A key goal for the brand is strengthening its presence in the U.S., which the executive listed among the best-performing markets. There the brand is looking for retail partners to boost its distribution network.
“We are banking on the U.S. because we are confident that it could give even better results, we are looking for the best partners to have the brand represented there in the most effective way,” he noted, mentioning a deal with Dallas-based children’s wear store The Tot, where the brand will bring its kid’s, women’s and home collections in November.
The collaboration was teased this summer when The Tot installed a pop-up shop in the Hamptons, offering the brand’s products. According to Conti Caponi, this drew the interest of another Hamptons retailer and two top New York stores with which the company is “in talks, with one retailer interested in homeware and the other more keen on children’s wear. We are very happy because they’re both really important retail institutions,” said Conti Caponi, who preferred to keep names of the stores under wraps.
Retail expansion is also the focus of the plan for the Russian market. To this end the ongoing collaboration with Moscow’s Tsum will be extended to units in Saint Petersburg and Barvikha starting with fall.
Noting that the company could have gone global earlier, Conti Caponi highlighted that the firm lagged in terms of production assets. “Paradoxically the real challenge for us was the wholesale [channel]. It represents a whole new world as we want to mix these two models, in order to foster our sales and brand awareness,” he added.
The Loretta Caponi atelier counts 15 employees and has outsourced part of its production to embroiderers across the Tuscany region. “To this end our challenge is more cultural than it is sales-related, it has to do with our [audacity], we want to promote the artisanal pipeline across Tuscany,” he said.
The company ended 2017 with revenues slightly more than one million euros and Conti Caponi was confident, projecting a year-on-year growth of 15 to 20 percent, boosted by all sales channels, to which the brand will add an online shop “hopefully” by the end of the year. “We want to set up our online studio, with the right compromise between the feeling a customer has when entering our [physical] atelier and the new course of the label.”