The Riccardo Grassi showroom on Milan's Via Piranesi.

MILAN Riccardo Grassi is an ambitious man.

The owner of Milan’s biggest influential showroom, which bears his name, is strongly focused on realizing a new creative hub in the Italian fashion capital.

When he opened his 4,300-square-foot Riccardo Grassi Showroom in an industrial building located on Via Piranesi on the eastern outskirts of Milan in 2012, many fashion people thought his decision was risky.

“Seven years ago Milan was living its worst moment, so I said to myself, ‘I have to create a big, groundbreaking showroom or it doesn’t make sense to launch a new business here,’” said Grassi, who in December 2011 left the Studio Zeta showroom, which he cofounded 20 years before. “Going to Paris was an easier choice to take, but I wanted to believe in the power of Milan. And our clients supported us and confirmed we did it right.”

Around 100 people work for the showroom, which sells collections for brands including Giambattista Valli, MSGM, No. 21, Marco de Vincenzo, Sportmax, Drome, Mother of Pearl, Natasha Zinko, Shrimps, Nico Giani and Elena Ghisellini, just to cite a few. “The mission of the people working with me is to take care at their best of our clients,” said Grassi, revealing that every season they have to deal with 2,000 clients coming from over 80 countries.

Every three months, more than 30 staffers travel worldwide to do market research in the points of sale. “Last May, I sent six of them in China to get a better understanding of that market,” Grassi explained. “It’s so important to be out, in the streets. And this is something that also designers have to understand — when they make a collection they have to consider all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ because they have to keep in mind they have to sell to customers who are located in the most disparate places in the world.”

Actually, 80 percent of the showroom’s clients are from outside Italy.

“I really realized they love what’s going on in Milan. After that miracle of the Expo, I really see that the international people coming here for work consider Milan a cool, hip city with new restaurants, new museums and new hotels to discover. There is construction everywhere, which is something boosting this sense of vivacity,” Grassi said.

This positive vibe pushed Grassi to further invest in Milan. The fashion entrepreneur is realizing Piranesi 246, which he defines as a “working village.” Flourishing around Riccardo Grassi Showroom, the complex — along with the headquarters of other fashion companies, including the office of Italian e-tailer TheDoubleF — includes the Guesthouse, which Grassi has inaugurated this summer.

The Guesthouse inside Riccardo Grassi's Piranesi 246 space.

The Guesthouse inside Riccardo Grassi’s Piranesi 246 space.  Courtesy Photo.

The Guesthouse consists of 13 apartments, spanning 538 square feet each, with independent entrances with a card and free access to the gym and the common spaces. A small outdoor swimming pool, as well as a restaurant and a bar, will open by the end of the year, when Grassi will also expand Piranesi 246 with a new venue for runway shows and events.

“I want to create a community hub, where everyone does his own job, but in the atmosphere of a community,” said Grassi, mentioning that Piranesi 246 is located in a Milan industrial area, which is the closest to the city center. “The Gucci headquarters and the Linate airport are both less than 10 minutes by car,” he added.

At the same time, Grassi is expanding the showroom’s men’s wear offering with the opening of a new division, called RG Man.

“The world of men’s wear has changed so much. It’s not the one we used to know anymore…nowadays, it’s deeply influenced by street culture,” said Grassi, citing Japanese and Russian clients among RG Man’s most receptive clients.

RG Man is strongly focused on a streetwear offering with brands including Alchemist, Arctic Explorer, Fumito Ganryu, Self Made by Gianfranco Villegas, Ground Zero, Saint Mariner, Tigran Avetisyan and Walk of Shame.

The new RG Man space at Riccardo Grassi showroom.

The new RG Man space at Riccardo Grassi Showroom.  Courtesy Photo.

According to the entrepreneur, the Riccardo Grassi Showroom will close 2018 with sales of 140 million euros and more than 13,500 orders.

“Asia, and especially China, is the best-performing market, along with the ‘E-land’ — the country-no country of online stores,” Grassi said. “In 2018, the orders made by digital stores registered a 40 percent increase compared to the previous year.”

Grassi also said that while Europe is performing better than in past years, in particular thanks to younger customers, Russia and the Middle East are suffering because of duties and embargoes.

“Thanks to the reorganizations they went through, the American department stores are doing better and the U.S. multibrand stores are making a comeback,” he added. “Retailers like Maxfield, The Webster, Kirna Zabête, Forty Five Ten, Pia in San Francisco and H.Lorenzo are super powerful right now. Why? Because the most sophisticated customers are bored by department stores and they look for more edited and special product offerings they can find in these boutiques.”