Gio Moretti has a soft spot in her heart for international designers. She was the first in Milan to feature the Donna Karan line seven years ago and brought over Calvin Klein soon after. Now Moretti’s plan for the Nineties is to bring in a host of international newcomers.
“At the moment, I have a strong feeling for the American designers and believe that a new style of femininity and quality is coming from their collections,” she said. “We also carry Alaia, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Ozbeck and David Fielding.” With 31 years of experience in the business, Moretti has a well-seasoned eye. The first Gio Moretti store opened in 1963 on Milan’s chic Via Della Spiga and included an exclusive mix of designer children’s wear. Customers and friends soon began asking her for women’s wear, and in 1973, she opened a second store on Via Turati under the same name. The timing was perfect, as the big names in Italian fashion were just starting out, and she intuitively picked names such as Krizia and Versace, helping to launch them.
Her clients range from 20 to 60 years of age and have the economic profile to match her price tags. “We attract an affluent section of Milanese families and society,” Moretti said. “Many also come from the provinces outside Milan, and we also have a strong foreign following from expatriates who live here or people in town for business.”
Q: Do you think the search for fashion should be more about a quest for the latest trends or an effort to find more classic items of quality?
A: “It seems that many women are returning to an early-Eighties mentality that glamour is more important than quality and class. My customers demand the trends. I’m constantly researching and proposing new ideas and styles that have a strong trend factor, but I find it very hard to do so if the colors are extremely loud or the clothing vulgar. If this is the case, I’ll propose the same styles in a way that suits my personal tastes. For example, I chose the spring-summer collections for reasons of quality and good price, looking for things that are both commercially valid and don’t render the wearer ridiculous. Then I try and present them according to color and fabric.”
Q: Where do you think fashion is going?
A: “Fashion still continues to provoke the consumer, and in my opinion, has become a growing platform for designers to air their personal tastes and opinions. The designer has to be more aware of what women want and must fulfill those needs. In my experience, there is a new breed of woman in her 40s who wants to wear younger styles, such as those worn by women in their 20s, and designers should offer stimulating clothing with this woman in mind.”
Q: What is your view on sales [which are loosely regulated by law in Italy and only take place twice a year, in January and July]?
A: “It’s quite simple: I hate them. As a retailer, I find it a terrifying experience, and if I had a choice, I would never do them. I dislike the idea that the customer has learned to wait for sales, preferring not to buy a jacket in December, but in the middle of January. I prefer to be as discreet as possible. My windows are as they would be on any day of the year, and inside the store, discount tickets don’t exist. My idea is to send invitations to my best customers to visit the store within seven days of my choosing during January and July. There is a great need for Milan’s retailers to unite and decide upon dates and time limits for the sale seasons.”
Q: What should every woman have in her closet?
A: “Femininity first and foremost, followed by simple pieces that have a timeless value, such as a classic jacket that can be worn on all occasions, or a navy blue pinstriped suit.”
ROSY BIFFI: FINDING UNKNOWNS WITH FRESH STYLE
After 29 years in the business, Rosy Biffi’s passion for color and fabric is as strong as ever. And her philosophy is focused: to find the unknown designer with the freshest style and to make him or her big, a task she attacks with a youthful spirit and exquisite taste. She spotted the talent of a then-unknown Giorgio Armani and bought five collections; the rest is history. Once her designer discoveries get famous, she lets them go and begins the search again with renewed enthusiasm. There are four Biffi shops, three in Milan and one in Bergamo. Biffi also operates a boutique in Milan called Banner. All of her shops carry a selection of Italian and international names such as Antonio Fusco, New York, DKNY, Industria, Dries Van Noten and G Gigli. Her customers range from 14 to 50 years old.
Q: What direction do you see fashion taking and what is the role of the boutique owner?
A: “We’re in a very difficult moment where consumers don’t want to buy fashion. People aren’t waiting for the latest trends as they once did, and they don’t feel pressured by them. I feel there is a new balance, a new intelligence on the part of the consumer who is choosing to buy clothing for reasons of quality, practicality and everlasting style. The focus of the market must therefore be directed to this fundamental need of the consumer, and we in the business have to propose clothing that uses these elements to make a fashion. “Garments are chosen with this in mind, and for the winter, I will be proposing the Afghan coat in cream and white. As with all the collections, I buy because I personally like them. I chose the spring-summer collections for reasons of simplicity, customer taste, feel of the moment and to be coherent in all senses. Certain pieces were chosen for their small “news” factors, which I feel could make a trend. I will present them as I do all my clothes, in a way that is visually interesting.”
Q: How do you feel about sales?
A: “Sales are incredibly important for us and must be made in the right moment. Otherwise, it isn’t serious behavior, and the customer is confused. Our idea is to have two significant sales twice a year, in January and July. I strongly think that sales in the city need to be governed and regulated, as those that start too early can devaluate the whole sector.”
Q: What does every woman need in her closet?
A: “Herself. Not many have found this, but once you’ve learned to accept yourself, clothing should be as simple as possible so as not to detract from the real you.”
PUPI SOLARI: NOT SWAYED BY TRENDS
A dynamic, opinionated woman, Pupi Solari is as bright as her name suggests. Her namesake women’s wear store opened in 1968, set back on an idyllic piazza not far from the flurry of Milan’s Corso Vercelli shopping district. She went through a brief stint in the late Sixties and early Seventies with a small chain of children’s wear boutiques called Snoopy, but has since focused her energies on her high-end boutique in Milan, which carries women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, and a babywear store in her home town of Genova.
Solari has her own rigorous philosophy of offering her loyal customers the very best in good taste, style, quality and tradition in an approach that doesn’t necessarily conform to fashion — at least in the sense of succumbing to the latest trends. She carries an eclectic mix of English and Italian labels she has developed after years of research and relationship building. They include such names as Alberto Aspesi, Antonio Fusco, Piombo, Grenson, William Lockie and Zoran.
Q: Who are the women that you dress?
A: “I dress the top — not necessarily the most affluent — but those searching for the ultimate in quality. My customers love fashion, but prefer quality and chic traditional styles. Fifty percent are employed in professional sectors, while the remainder are more family oriented. Ages are diverse — ranging from 20 to 70 — as are tastes. A young woman may want a tweed jacket by Aspesi, whereas a lady in her 60s wants to wear Fusco.”
Q: Are trends important?
A: “Trends to me aren’t that important; it’s what the customer looks good in that counts and how they adapt clothes to suit them. It still remains a great challenge for me to launch something new which contains lasting quality and class. I prefer to choose pieces that are timeless. With this in mind, I hope to introduce Levi’s jeans into my shops in the near future, whereas the recently launched Piombo range for women was chosen for reasons of class and quality. “I bought the spring-summer collections with my own tastes in mind as always. I will present it in a personalized way on the shop floor, with an accent on color, so that the end result appears as though I’ve designed the clothes myself.
Q: What are your views on sales?
A: “Sales are indispensable and not to be treated lightly. I try not to offend the customer who has bought an outfit earlier in the season with my sale price, but it’s very difficult not to. I give reductions of 20 to 30 percent in January, 50 percent in July and for outfits that are the last of its kind or the end of a series. After five sale days, I aim to have the new collections already in the stores, and I think this time limit should be confirmed by law. As it stands, retailers keep extending their sale days, which devalues the name of fashion and is most unprofessional. I admire the French designers’ approach to sales; for example, the windows at Chanel and Louis Vuitton at sale time are very classy.”
Q: What should every woman have in her closet?
A: “The search for her own identity. When this is discovered, everything falls into place. Women have to learn to accept their flaws and choose clothes that complement their spirit, body, personality and mystic.”