MILAN — Since its founding in 1988, Bikkembergs has been pretty much synonymous with sportswear and soccer, having championed the active lifestyle for more than three decades.
Under its current owner Canudilo Modern Avenue and creative director Lee Wood, that idea has been cemented but Dario Predonzan, the company’s general manager, feels the time is ripe to go further upscale.
The executive has been fine-tuning the strategy since taking the helm in 2017, expanding the scope of the brand, adding new licensing deals, and forging more commercial alliances.
In 2022 the company switched a few of its licensing partners and Predonzan believes the new ones will help the brand embark on its upscaling trajectory. In November it linked with Factory Srl, a manufacturing company based outside Florence, Italy, that also owns the Drome brand, for the production and global distribution of menswear and womenswear.
“We share a strong passion for what we do, and they boast excellent product know-how, with high positioning and quality,” said Predonzan. “We’re slightly veering away from the core sportswear that helped us in the most recent seasons and toward soft tailoring and urbanwear, without giving up on our DNA,” he offered.
The first collection bowing under the deal was pre-fall unveiled in Milan via showroom appointments while the fall 2023 collection will be presented at Pitti Uomo, where Bikkembergs is returning after joining the digital platform Pitti Connect in the past few seasons.
“Pitti Uomo is a great platform offering the opportunity to tell a story. For us it marks a chance to unveil our new licenses and also a new concept store,” Predonzan said.
“The idea is that visitors will step into the new era for the Bikkembergs brand, it’s a reloaded [version] in continuity with the heritage left by founder Dirk Bikkembergs,” he noted. In October the brand debuted an archive sale of original pieces from the ‘90s and early 2000s.
As reported, In January 2022 Bikkembergs inked an agreement with Marche, Italy-based Rodolfo Zengarini as the footwear category was booming and in April it changed its handbag and leather goods partner from La Compagnia delle Pelli to Principe SpA aiming to strengthen the category and make a push in women’s handbags.
The latter are seen as a breach into womenswear, which overall accounts for only 7 percent of the business. Together with footwear and a stronger commitment to offering a total-look ready-to-wear lineup, they are expected to boost the division.
The new chapter comes amid global economic turmoil, especially as the brand was significantly exposed to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, operating 11 stores in the former country and generating around 15 percent of its turnover there.
“The first half of 2022 was largely impacted, but then business picked up and we’re now going full speed. That being said, we were forced to look elsewhere” to improve overall sales, Predonzan explained.
New markets include the Middle East and Spain, while the U.S., where the brand distributes footwear only, is the next target. “Only when you know you have prowess in all categories…it makes sense to make a further push Stateside,” he said.
“The next two years will be very important with the new partners and new products living up to the hype around the brand as in the past,” Predonzan said, adding he is not done yet with debuting new product categories.
Although his ambition to open a flagship in Milan is still on hold, Predonzan said more franchised units will bow in the Middle East and Russia this year.
Globally there are 20 flagships, five of which are directly operated by the company’s shareholder Canudilo Modern Avenue, the Chinese retail giant that took over the brand in 2019, acquiring the remaining 49 percent stake it did not already own from Italian companies Zeis Excelsa and Sinv.
The executive didn’t disclose the company’s revenues for 2022 beyond saying they were in line with the previous year, despite the business drains in Russia in the first half.