MILAN — After marking its 25th anniversary in 2020, Italian casualwear label Harmont & Blaine, known for its dachshund logo, has initiated a new chapter, revamping its offering and expanding its retail footprint.
The collaboration with designer Andrea Pompilio, who agreed last year to develop two capsule collections for the brand, best epitomizes the new course being undertaken by the company. According to chief executive officer Marco Pirone, who joined Harmont & Blaine in 2020, the ultimate goal is to make the label “more desirable, injecting a cooler appeal into it.”
The fashion quotient and young vibe Pompilio infused in his two drops helped refresh the Neapolitan brand’s iconography, which is rooted in a Mediterranean interpretation of the preppy look.
Both collections — the first one introduced last June and the second drop presented during Milan Men’s Fashion Week earlier this month — highlighted one of the strongest links between Pompilio and the brand, which is the use of color, via monochromatic looks.
In particular, for fall 2022 Pompilio offered interpretations of utilitarian staples and explored patchwork techniques, combining eight different types of the same fabric — including cotton, fleece and nylon — to craft bomber jackets and baggy pants.
“Andrea has done an extraordinary job for both collections, he has grasped the soul of the brand and he’s very competent,” Pirone said. Yet, at the moment, there are no plans to extend the collaboration for other seasons.
“There’s no [plan] to turn it into a permanent project, this was clear since the beginning, when we set two releases to better plan his work and ours, too,” the executive said. “These capsule collections have been welcomed favorably when they were unveiled, but the first one hits stores now, so let’s see.”
In addition to the partnership with Pompilio, Harmont & Blaine’s revamp touched differed areas. The overall rebranding started with the revision of the logo, an operation that Pirone defined as “always delicate, important and significant. We left the wording and symbol as they were but opted for a more contemporary and lightweight lettering.”
The more agile font was meant to mirror the new creative direction of the apparel collections in general, which for Pirone have to telegraph a “feel good,” laid-back attitude.
“We keep our roots in our color sensibility and in the Mediterranean lifestyle, but while staying true to these values, we have started to evolve the codes toward a more contemporary and modern direction, not to be mistaken with a younger one,” noted the executive.
While acknowledging an interest in engaging new consumers, Pirone underscored that the priority is to “surprise without intimidating” the brand’s existing customers, who are mostly adult men.
“It’s a sort of sign of respect to that cluster of customers who have been loyal to us….We are not on the hunt for Gen Zers or influencers,” Pirone said.
Going forward, the company will put a particular focus on enhancing the women’s offering, too. “We don’t have the ambition of having our sales equally split between men and women, but we aim at an organic growth boosted by a coherent approach to both collections.”
The first positive feedback to the brand’s new course was registered last year, said Pirone, underscoring that “the performance in October and November was better than in the same period in 2019, even with much less traffic in the stores due to COVID-19.”
While another surge of the virus and its Omicron variant hampered the in-store activity during the holiday season and the start of 2022, the CEO believes this year revenues will get close to reach 2019 levels, when the company reported about 94 million euros in sales.
Meanwhile, to further telegraph the brand’s new image, a new interior concept was launched in the label’s flagship in Naples and in corners at the El Corte Inglés department stores in Spain. This layout will roll out also in the Milan flagship store next year, Pirone said.
Retail-wise, the company is investing significantly in boosting its international expansion. Harmont & Blaine has recently opened its first store in China, in Shanghai’s Yaohan mall, and is planning launches in other cities, all to be handled directly as the company has established a subsidiary in the country. The brand also has a store in Hong Kong, where it plans to double its presence soon.
In addition to Asia, the company is committing to expand its retail footprint in Latin America, starting with Mexico, where next month it will launch at the El Palacio de Hierro upscale chain of department stores.
“We’re investing in building the platform for the next 25 years of this company,” said Pirone, who was previously executive vice president of Kiton, which he joined from Louis Vuitton, where he was CEO of the Italian division. Previously, he was head of the EMEA region at Estée Lauder and European head of Coty’s luxury division.
Founded in 1995, Harmont & Blaine has 99 stand-alone stores and is additionally available at 464 multibrand stores as well as via corners and shops-in-shop in 58 department stores in 34 countries. The company counts more than 600 employees and, in 2014, it received an investment from the Clessidra investment fund.