Two years after its acquisition by Italian fund Armònia, the Italian label, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019, is making a comeback on the international scene thanks to a major reorganization led by chief executive officer Fabio Gnocchi.
A legendary brand that epitomizes sophisticated Milanese style, Aspesi was founded by fashion entrepreneur Alberto Aspesi in 1969. Several prestigious designers, including Walter Albini, Franco Moschino and most recently Lawrence Steel, helped the brand establish an aesthetic of high-quality, wearable pieces with a refined color sensibility and minimal chic design.
“After [many] glorious years, the image of the brand got a tad stuck so we reorganized all the different areas of the company to make it more efficient,” said Gnocchi, who was previously commercial director at Brunello Cucinelli. In particular, he said the company restructured the design team, promoting two Aspesi design veterans to oversee the men’s and women’s teams, respectively. “They know the company perfectly, can be loyal to the brand’s DNA and work together to keep the collections coherent,” Gnocchi said. “At the same time, they are assisted by a merchandiser, a figure who is becoming more and more important to deliver the right products at the right time.”
According to Gnocchi, Aspesi will continue to be loyal to its aesthetic. “We are working to make our no-logo philosophy our logo,” he said. “We are creating collections organized in different groups with a great attention to colors — and the reaction of the clients has been extremely positive.”
The company, which closed 2017 with 44.5 million euros in international sales, posted 17 percent growth in spring 2019 orders compared to the same season the previous year.
“We are growing in all the different markets,” said Gnocchi, revealing that the company is revising its distribution, especially in Italy, where it “was available in too many small stores. We actually managed to make a comeback in those high-end boutiques, which can display our products next to luxury fashion lines.”
In order to make Aspesi grow as a lifestyle label — “not just as a supplier of good products” — Gnocchi said the company is evaluating the possibility of creating collaborations. “[But] we don’t want to collaborate with other fashions brands,” he said. “Considered the peculiarity of Aspesi, we think that it would be more interesting to team up with personalities hailing from different fields, such as art and design.”
This relationship with the creative world will be celebrated by the company in the new flagship opening on Milan’s central Via San Pietro All’Orto at the end of this month that will carry the label’s men’s and women’s collections. This will replace a former unit in Via Montenapoleone.
“It’s a special location, a former bank, and with the Studio Dordoni, which is handling the project we are creating a flexible space where we will be able to host events and artists,” Gnocchi said of the Milan space. “The interior design will be very tactile with impactful materials, such as concrete and iron, defining a very clean, industrial space with a striking effect.”
While the company recently opened two shops-in-shop in Seoul with its South Korean partner Samsung and another 20 units are going to be unveiled in the next five years, the wholesale business remains key for the brand. In the U.S., Aspesi is available in the major department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
“We are getting in all the most important retailers across Europe,” said Gnocchi, who is also working to find the right business partners in Japan and China.
At the same time, Aspesi is investing in its e-commerce, which is posting triple-digit growth. “We expect it to account between 8 and 10 percent of our total business within four years.”