SWISH ON THE EXPANSION PLAN
Byline: Alessandra Ilari
ROME — With a combination of sexy styling and provocative ad campaigns, Swish, the Italian denim and sportswear manufacturer, is in fast forward. It will more than double its wholesale volume from $25.2 million (40 billion lire) in 1994 to $57 million (90 billion) lire in 1995.
“‘Swish’ gives the idea of something that moves fast, but that penetrates,” said Raimondo Ciofani, creative director.
There’s no doubt Swish has penetrated the fashion market.
“Our fastest-selling labels are Swish and Diesel,” said Gioia Magnani, creative director at the Fiorucci megastore in Milan.
Swish is broadening its horizons. It will start exporting to other European countries with the spring-summer 1996 collection, and plans to come to the U.S. early in 1997.
“The U.S. is a big dream for us, but you need the right product and the right timing,” said Ciofani, who feels the diverse nature of Europe’s markets makes it a good testing ground for the U.S.
Although Marcello Mastantuono, owner of Swish, claims to have found his company’s name at random in the dictionary, the firm’s latest strategies have been meticulously planned, especially the ad campaign and the jeans line introduced at the beginning of 1994.
From 1991 to 1994, Mastantuono and Ciofani worked to finish the products, create the structure and come up with the campaigns that turned Swish into a hot brand.
“Not having steady product growth means not capitalizing on the investments you’ve made in the ad campaigns,” said Ciofani.
The jeanswear is all made in Italy. The classic five-pocket styles, skin-tight stretch looks, denim bra tops with colorful trimmings and shrunken denim shirts are only some of the looks that Swish’s 700 Italian sales points can’t keep on the shelves. Swish Jeans — which has become a separate company — has sold 1 million pieces since its debut.
Wholesale prices run from $38 (60,000 lire) for a classic pair of jeans to $189 (300,000 lire) for a white leather motorcycle jacket.
“We decided to treat our jeans differently after an in-depth analysis of the jeans phenomenon. We noticed that throughout its history, denim represented many things — working gear, casualwear, political contests, rebellious kids and designer names,” said Ciofani. “At this point, we thought, jeans could assume any meaning, because if you have a direct philosophy and clear ideas, you’ll find a niche. We opted for feminine looks with which a woman can reveal her body curves.”
Ciofani doesn’t believe consumers are into the country western look anymore.
A woman’s curves play a big part in Swish’s sassy and controversial ad plan, in which the company invested $7.6 million (12 billion lire) in two years.
The first big campaign appeared in March 1994. Since then, Italian cities have been pasted with black-and-white photos of Naomi Campbell, Yasmeen Ghauri, Monica Bellucci, Carla Bruni and Eva Herzigova in sex-kitten poses.
While most of the models appeared for only one or two seasons, Campbell’s has been a recurring face.
“Besides being extremely beautiful, Naomi represents caprice, coquetry and transgression,” said Ciofani. “The idea was that of a communication plan that would stir curiosity. In the first campaign, Naomi was completely naked, not only for the scoop, but to tell people to go check out what we made.”
But after Italian clerics grumbled, police from the city of Latina (just south of Rome) filed an official complaint against Swish’s ad campaigns, accusing them of public defamation of religion. The ads in question featured Campbell and Herzigova in jeans, accompanied by such slogans as, “Wash in holy water,” and, “They’ll cost you 10 Ave Marias.” The ad considered most offensive shows Campbell sticking out her tongue; the text reads, “Even Lucifer was an angel.”
Not surprisingly, the more tongues wagged, the more the products sold.
“After the polemic with the Church, our jeans sold out and the campaign wasn’t even charged with public defamation by the national committee that oversees publicity,” said Ciofani.
But Swish’s aficionados will be happy the company is keeping an eye on prices.
“We’ve made a big, company effort to make sure that our ad investments don’t reflect on the final price, because the campaigns are part of our launch phase,” said Ciofani.