A FINE FOUNDATION

Byline: Courtney Colavita

Loro Piana has grown its luxury brand from the seeds of a textile empire.
It started in the early Nineties, when Loro Piana started selling finished pieces — mostly accessories — to multi-brand boutiques.
“We always had our customer in mind, but it was difficult for us to have a direct relationship with him or her because we were so far back in the pipeline,” said Sergio Loro Piana, during a recent interview at the company’s palazzo in Milan.
In 1995, encouraged by the response to the accessories, but not satisfied with their retail presence, Sergio and his brother, Pier Luigi, with whom he shares chief executive officer duties, opened a store in their corporate offices on East 61st Street in Manhattan.
“It started as an experiment, but we had such an amazing response. We realized it was just a matter of increasing our retail presence,” said Sergio Loro Piana.
Since the official launch of its luxury goods division in 1999, Loro Piana has been on a store-opening spree — unveiling 30 directly operated points of sale, including 16 stores worldwide. So far this year, stores are scheduled to open in Tokyo, Geneva and Manhasset.
Last year, total volume surged 27 percent to $235 million in 2000.
Characterized by soft, super-fine pieces in cashmere and worsted wool, the complete men’s and women’s rtw and accessories collections have been in stores for just over two years, but they are earning a solid reputation.
“They’re producing a luxurious line of classic, casual pieces with a twist of fashion,” said Ron Frasch, chairman and ceo of Bergdorf Goodman. “Loro Piana is one of the few brands really communicating a lifestyle of casual luxury.”
Loro Piana has two corners in Bergdorf’s and Frasch said the company is among the store’s top resources.
Luxury consultant Carlo Pambianco said he’s not surprised at Loro Piana’s success in retailing.
“It is an undisputed world leader in the production of cashmere and ultra-fine wools. What the company is doing now is translating the textile background into a direct retail strategy.”
While it might appear the focus is on luxury collections and retail expansion, the brothers say they are firmly connected to the company’s textile division. Without it, they aver, the Loro Piana brand would not exist.
Indeed, luxury fabrics are an integral part of the company’s DNA — and a part of the brothers’ everyday life — whether they’re at headquarters in Piedmont checking for flaws in the fabrics, in Hong Kong examining a new batch of cashmere fleece or in New Zealand bidding on bales of merino wool.
“Textiles are the root and origin of our luxury products,” said Loro Piana. “We are committed to not only maintaining that tradition of quality, but to expanding it. I only have one baby to look after. I’m going to do everything in my power to take the best care of it.”