Byline: Alessandra Ilari

MILAN — Roberto Monti has a little problem.
“For our product, most of the European markets are saturated. We can’t accept new clients because we already have the best ones,” said the 35-year-old Monti, who handles the business side of Piazza Sempione, a four-year-old label designed by his wife, Marisa Guerrizio.
But he also thinks he has a solution: America.
Two years ago, Piazza Sempione first crossed the ocean to the U.S., where it’s carried by Barneys and Neiman Marcus and, Monti hopes, by Saks Fifth Avenue if current talks succeed.
While the line has some 300 sales points in Europe, Monti said the primary goal now is to boost their position in the U.S.
“However, when planning our U.S retailing strategy, we won’t forget specialty stores such as Linda Dresner or Ultimo because they’re important,” said Monti, who likes to claim that Piazza Sempione has never lost a client.
“In general, we don’t invest in advertising because we prefer to focus on the product, letting it speak for itself,” said Monti “But we understand that in the U.S. this isn’t enough, so we’re planning ad campaigns for July.”
And just what is that product? One signature is an impeccably tailored blazer in the plushest of fabrics, but with a twist: Guerrizio adds small percentages of Dupont’s Lycra spandex to luxurious Italian flannels, herringbones, tweeds and silks.
Don’t expect trend breakthroughs from Piazza Sempione, because the essence of the clothes is good tailoring and those bi-elastic fabrics, which stretch both horizontally and vertically. The concept of stretch is applied to everything from Loro Piana’s signature Tasmania wool, to plush cashmeres, cottons and mixes of cashmere and superfine wool.
“The latest addition is a stretch linen, and we’re perfecting our blends, the newest being a cotton, linen, rayon and Lycra mix,” said Monti.
Silhouettes are clean and lean, or as Monti calls them, “very Milanese,” with three-button jackets, slim cuffed pants (in cashmere) and lightweight knitwear the featured items. “Of the spring/summer 1995 collection, we sold 1,500 three-button blazers in a bi-elastic cotton and linen blend and 2,000 bi-elastic linen jeans-style pants, in airy colors,” said Monti.
It was at the end of 1989 that Monti and Guerrizio decided, after years of experience at Basile, to branch out on their own. “The Eighties lacked a high-quality product that wasn’t exceedingly trend-oriented. At Basile, I was in charge of the marketing while Marisa was the product manager,” said Monti.
“We opened our first two-room office in Piazza Sempione, hence the line’s name, but it took us a year to find the right fabric suppliers,” he noted.
Adding Piazza Sempione’s stretchy looks to a wardrobe doesn’t come cheap. A bi-elastic Tasmania wool jacket wholesales for about $218 (350,000 lire), a cashmere one for $375 (600,000 lire) and wool pants for $75 (120,000 lire).
But judging from Piazza Sempione’s results, people appreciate facing their daily routine in chic but nonconstricting clothes, and not only in Italy. Export sales accounted for 80 percent of Piazza Sempione’s $13 million (21 billion lire) revenues in 1994.