MOSCHINO’S TROOPS MARCH ON

Byline: Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — When Franco Moschino died last September, the first question people in fashion asked was, “And now?”
Those exact words adorned T-shirts in Moschino’s fall ’95 men’s collection. The Moschino design team, headed by Rossella Jardini, saw the slogan as completely in the spirit of the designer who, for more than 10 years, livened up the fashion system with his humor and playful gimmicks. “Irony came very natural to Franco,” said Jardini, who started working with Moschino in 1984, a year after he founded the company. Today, she’s in charge of the signature Moschino Couture line and also oversees the snappy Cheap and Chic collection and Moschino Jeans.
But “And now?” was a serious business question, too. It asked what happens when the creative brains behind a style — and the person who turned a small company into a fashion empire — dies? In the case of Moschino, it appears the designer himself laid down some solid foundations for the survival of his house.
“Franco always delegated to his staff, whether it was something creative or financial, so a lot of his collaborators grew up with him,” said Andrea Gobbetti, 36, managing director of Moschino since 1993.
So the staff had the skill and experience to carry on by themselves, and Gobbetti said that retailers — especially U.S. stores, which account for 15 percent of Moschino’s sales — were extremely supportive of the house after Moschino’s death.
“Five days after Franco left us, we were discussing with some of our top U.S. clients new sales points for our lines,” he explained. “In the last four months, our U.S. clients are the ones who’ve had the most faith in the continuation of the Moschino business. This is because they are very evolved.”
The Moschino labels — Moschino Couture, Cheap and Chic and Moschino Jeans — are carried in 130 sales points in the U.S., including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Fred Segal in Los Angeles and Tootsies in Houston.
And although Franco is gone, business is on an upward trend at his house, according to Gobbetti. In 1994, Moschino’s sales totaled $212 million (350 billion lire) and Gobbetti predicts a 10 percent increase in 1995, with perhaps 20 percent increases at some of the U.S. clients.
Gobbetti said the Cheap and Chic line is best performing one of the three, accounting for 45 percent of sales in women’s wear. The jeans line makes up 35 percent of sales, while the higher-priced Moschino Couture contributes the remaining 20 percent. Orders for the spring-summer 1995 collection (for which Franco Moschino chose the fabrics, but did not actually design), were in line with last year, Gobbetti said, adding that orders for the men’s fall collection were ahead 30 percent against last year. “The market has prized the value of a product and recognized that Franco didn’t only build an image of himself, but genius collections with the help of people that work here,” he said.
Significant results are also coming from the Moschino handbag lines, which tallied sales of $21.2 million (35 billion lire) in 1994, Gobbetti said. While the colorful nylon bags with the Moschino name spelled out in bold gold letters are the hot sellers in the U.S., the Milan boutique has sold out of the “soccer” handbags made of black and white leather patches.
The bags are manufactured by Redwall, a leading leather goods manufacturer that also produces Giorgio Armani bags.
“Moschino has the merit of having spiced up accessories, notoriously considered classic and noneccentric,” said Gian Enzo Rossi, commercial director at Redwall. Gobbetti also noted that Aeffe — the apparel manufacturer owned by designer Alberta Ferretti that produces the Couture and Cheap and Chic lines — has been very supportive and never expressed any doubts about Moschino’s future after the designer died.
So Gobbetti is planning ahead. His first project is a plan to open directly owned boutiques, probably in the U.S. and in Moschino’s strongest European export markets — England and Spain. “We still haven’t decided the locations, but since we already have the best sales points in most of the markets, we think Moschino stores are the best solution [for growth], especially with wider lines and accessories,” said Gobbetti. Currently, Moschino has two boutiques in Milan, and one each in Singapore, Taiwan and Japan under franchising agreements.
During the upcoming fashion week in Milan, the Moschino collection will be shown on models during a small in-house show at Moschino’s headquarters. It will be the first Moschino show in five years to use models, and the first collection in which Franco Moschino had no hand. “I don’t like the word show, and Franco taught us that the times for glitzy runway shows are over because they distract from the clothes,” explained Gobbetti. “However, this season, we wanted to show the clothes on models so that people can see them better.”
With business looking so good, the house increased its spring-summer 1995 ad budget by 10 percent, adding 4 or 5 new magazines to the usual lineup. “Since we’re pleased with sales results, increasing ad budgets is a natural consequence,” said Gobbetti. The campaign features two images in black and white. One is a portrait of the late designer, with the slogan “Moschino Forever.” The other shows a muscular male arm tattooed “Moschino Forever,” cradling a little baby. The photos belong to the Moschino archives. “The campaign was an homage to Franco,” said Gobbetti.