MILAN — Aggregation rather than dominance.
This might be one of the keys to the future of the Italian luxury industry and the solution to its lack of big conglomerates, which sets it apart from competition in France, according to Patrizio Bertelli, Prada Group’s co-chief executive officer, who was one of the speakers at the three-day Milano Fashion Global Summit 2021 that ended on Thursday.
“I believe that Italian [big] groups were not created due to a very individualistic attitude by everyone: we are a population of individualists, and this individualism didn’t allow aggregation,” said Bertelli in a video filmed at the company’s industrial complex in Valvigna, Tuscany.
“The basic problem is that anyone who wants to establish an Italian [pole] should see it under a plan of aggregation and not of dominance. Often what disturbs people is that whoever creates an Italian group, that’s the boss.…It is necessary to get out of the canon of property as an absolute value,” he added.
On its end, Prada Group has made different acquisitions throughout the years, some of which Bertelli addressed in his speech.
“The problem of Italian [big] groups is quite emblematic. We gave it a try and maybe we got the terms wrong probably with Jil Sander and Helmut Lang because I think that the essential mistake [was] to have left the management to them when we should have had it instead. This is what shouldn’t be done in acquisitions, especially with regard to certain aspects, financial ones and also of distribution,” he said.
In general, Bertelli foresees that acquisitions will increasingly define the industry’s landscape in the future. “The big ones will become bigger while the small players will increasingly have problems in finding an identity and will surely have to rely on big groups. It’s not a law of the market due to big players wanting to become even bigger, but it’s the only way small companies have to preserve themselves because the tools and investments [required] to maintain themselves and get known internationally are too expensive to be handled singularly,” noted Bertelli.
During his speech, the executive also retraced key moments of the company’s history and evolution, acknowledging the role played by his wife Miuccia Prada, who on Oct. 27 was recognized with WWD’s John B. Fairchild Honor for Lifetime Achievement.
“The starting point was Miuccia [Prada] of course, and then we did all this journey together. So in terms of merit, I would say it’s 60 percent Miuccia’s and 40 percent mine,” said Bertelli.
Since joining the company in 2017, the couple’s eldest son Lorenzo has been increasingly active — rising to become head of marketing and corporate social responsibility — suggesting he is getting ready to possibly lead the group one day.
“I see him very engaged: he’s the most critic at work, he wants more and more.…I used to think I was demanding, but it seems to me he is much more demanding that I am, so the premises are very positive,” said the senior Bertelli. “He’s working to learn a lot, we’ll see if in some years’ time he will want and personally like this role.”