The Italian fashion industry is one of the most important industrial sectors in Italy. Worldwide, it is also a large player, particularly in the high-end and luxury segment. In 2011, the total turnover of the Italian fashion industry was approximately 63.5 billion euro, especially because of growth in foreign markets like America and Asia.
The turnover of menswear represented about 8.3 billion. For 2014, the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana estimates that the total growth will be over five percent, with an estimated turnover of 62.5 billion euro. This revenue decrease was mainly due to the ongoing credit crunch. The economic situation is not only causing disappointing Italian sales, but is also the reason why sales in Europe lag far behind.
For many seasons, the growth in menswear sales surpasses that of women’s, a very special and interesting development. Certain factors, such as a change in workplace culture, the emergence of new sports and media icons for men, simpler access to various fashion channels, and an increasing demand from emerging economies, for example China, contribute to the fact that turnover in men’s wear has increased considerably. The choice in menswear has never been as large and diverse as it is now. In recent years, the male consumer has developed a better and more marked dress sense. Especially the buying behavior of men has changed. Historically, men bought clothes purely because they saw it as a necessity; but increasingly, they are buying clothes for pleasure, keeping a closer eye on current trends. Many Italian luxury brands, such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Bottega Veneta, are therefore investing millions in opening stores that are aimed solely at men’s fashion accessories. Prada, for example, wants to open fifty men only stores over the next three years. In 2013, Prada already opened three stores of this type.
The high-earning metrosexual male urbanite in particular is spending a lot of money on grooming and apparel. He purchases the best designer clothes for himself, uses cosmetics and is not at all afraid of carrying expensive designer bags. And this type of male consumer is growing, becoming a very interesting target group for the luxury market. Ermengildo Zegna, for example, developed a special Couture Collection that targets the high-end of well-to-do male consumers, with clothes prizes that are approximately fifty percent higher than those of the standard collection. It is a niche market that is growing, and it will be the focus of an increasing number of international luxury brands.
The Italian fashion house Valentino also focuses on the high-end of menswear by showing couture items in their men’s collection; five beautiful men’s coats in double-faced cashmere. Handmade in Rome. Perfect in camel, grey or stripy black-grey cut. According to the creative designer duo Pier Paolo Piccoli and Maria Grazia Churi, couture is part of the Valentino brand’s DNA. The entire collection exudes Italian luxury and superb quality. Pinstriped suits have the smooth cut of men’s pyjamas, and short woollen coats have graphic Art Deco patterns.
A colorful three-quarter camel coat with a falcon decoration on the back, whose wings are stretching over the shoulders, is magnificent. A piece of art. “We don’t want to set trends,” Piccoli explains. “We want to create a style for men. Step by step, we are creating the ideal wardrobe.” To make it look not too classic, the present-day Valentino man is wearing dark, rolled up jeans and white sneakers under his desirable outfits. At the moment, menswear represents seven to eight percent of Valentino’s revenue. Over the next three to five years, this has to become ten to fifteen percent. Recently, Valentino also opened a men-only flagship store in Paris, as part of the expansion of the men’s line.
Fashion labels are trying to emphasize the traditional methods in the manufacturing of their products. Thus, they want to address the demand for this by increasingly critical consumers. The models in the show of Antonio Marras walk past tailors who are sitting behind old sewing machines altering clothes. Deliberate consumption is the new norm. Consumers are not only mindful when it comes to spending, they also reserve more time for their purchases, avoiding monotonous mass production.
Burberry responds to this with hand-painted abstract designs on raincoats and matching XL bags. “All bags and coats are hand-painted in the studio,” notes creative director Christopher Bailey. “Despite being a big cooperation, I like the idea of making handmade products. I think consumers want items that are more personal.” Bailey is one of the few designers who are not afraid of using prints this season - loose-fitting shirts, trench coats and silk shawls wrapped around the shoulders, with prints of the map of London, and architectural London and Parisian monuments. Silk and cotton shirts, quilted jackets and knitted XL scarves have stylized leaf patterns, inspired by English retro wallpaper.
The handmade cashmere sweaters that were handmade in Wales have knitted patterns of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Very British indeed! In 2013, Burberry’s turnover increased with seventeen percent to 2.87 billion euro. Burberry is benefitting considerably from internet sales, as seventy percent of sales come from their own stores and web stores. Next year, Burberry will open another twenty to twenty-five new stores in China and the Middle East.
Moda Fast Fashion
At the moment, the fashion industry has two segments that are doing well; the low-end and high-end luxury segment. The middle-end is suffering from falling sales figures. Cheap fast-fashion retailers are increasingly gaining ground in the competitive fashion market, and with great success. Amancio Ortega, the Spanish owner and founder of the Zara fashion chain, for example, is the richest man in Europe. He has more than forty-three billion euro to his name. Zara has 1,827 shops in over eighty-seven countries on five continents. In third place is Philip Green, owner of the British Topshop, with 4.76 billion euro. The eighty-year-old Giorgio Armani wants to use his younger and affordable label Armani Exchange to fight cheap chains, such as Zara, Topshop and H&M, and will be expanding this label considerably. With 270 Armani Exchange stores worldwide, Armani wants to become the first global Italian fast-fashion chain. “Fast-fashion is a young and dynamic segment of the fashion industry. I have always been of the opinion that Armani Exchange has the potential to become one of the strongest brands in the world,” Armani says. Last year, Armani achieved record sales of 2.19 billion euro, and invested more than one hundred million in the development of his store network and other projects, opening over one hundred new stores.
Perhaps less known to the general public is British designer Neil Barrett, who shows all his collections in Milan. His clothing is expertly produced in Tuscany and therefore has the coveted label “Made in Italy.” According to the designer, the typical Neil Barrett male lives all over the world. “He is cool, has good taste, and understands what I’m doing. He doesn’t feel the need to wear visible labels, and is extremely intelligent,” Barrett notes. In his tough and über-male collection, Barrett plays with dégradé effects: many garments blend from one color into another. Short woollen jackets go from dark blue to black with matching trousers and sweaters.
Men’s coats are black on top and gradually end in chocolate brown. The most ingenious item is a three-quarter men’s jacket, going from leather to suede; it is one large animal skin that underwent several treatments. His graphic white thunderbolt prints for oversized quilted bomber jackets, and spacious sweaters and blazers will undoubtedly be copied quickly by the larger fast-fashion chains. “To me, the thunderbolt comes closest to my DNA. I am not only the president of my company, but also my own client. But it’s more difficult to design for myself than for others,” Barrett notes.
Moda Anno ’70
The years after 2008 were not the easiest and most profitable ones for Italian luxury brands. The global credit crunch has left deep marks in consumer’s spending habits. For 2014, less growth in luxury goods is expected in comparison with 2013 because of a fall in consumer spending in China and Europe. Especially the important Russian consumer is ignoring Italy because of the political crisis in their own country and the weaker Russian Rouble. This crisis has clearly vaporized the creative aspect of the current collections, resulting in more austerity in many Italian men’s collections. This also holds true for Gucci. Simple and wearable clothes without any of the Gucci “La Dolce Vita” feel. No accessories, no prints or showy logo belts. Super-narrow trousers (sometimes in leather), leather jackets and shirts from filmy leather, and tight double-breasted jackets. Gucci, like many other designers, also presents fur for men. The logo free (!) Gucci bag is folded and worn under the arm.
“A journey through the 1970s. Iconic items from Gucci’s history are making a comeback in this collection, but in an innovative way,” creative director Frida Giannini notes. “The jacket, the pants and the wonderful cashmere sweaters. I wanted to play with pale skin tones and delicate colors.” For the final, a lot of black as this is “the main Gucci color because it is dangerous, sexy and decadent,” Gianni states. But it is also extremely commercial. The years of Gucci expansionism hasn’t done the brand any favors; by offering more expensive bags and reducing the number of stores, Gucci hopes to regain its exclusivity for consumers. Unfortunately their disappointing sales make it painfully clear that Gucci is not as popular is it used to be. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the sales of Gucci fell by 5.5 percent. And in the first three months of 2014, Gucci saw a feeble turnover increase of just 0.3 percent.
Prada’s increase in net profit over 2013 was not much better, to 627.8 million euro. In the first three months of 2014, the net profit decreased with a whopping twenty-four percent. This was caused by the falling demand for luxury products in China and the ongoing European crunch. Even though Prada was the trendsetter last summer with its colorful Hawaiian prints for men, this season everything is uni-colored and without prints. The silhouette is mostly loose fitting with a high 1970s feel in stretch fabrics. Extremely simple costumes and shirts with contrasting revers and large collars, in which the trousers have slightly flared and wide legs. Difficult times apparently call for understandable clothing, without accessories or belts.
The lavish fur coats and matching long fur scarves indicate that Miuccia Prada also believes in fur for men. With a live orchestra, female models could also be seen on the catwalk, something that several designers picked up last July, and are now using in their men’s summer collections 2015. In 2013, Prada opened approximately seventy-nine new stores and now has 540 stores worldwide. Yet, Miuccia Prada does not want to get involved with e-commerce. “I don’t care for it. Personally, I think that it is not suitable for luxury products.” With the exception of Gucci, Burberry and Saint Laurent, many luxury brands are still snobbish about web purchases. Because about ninety percent of all luxury purchases are still made in stores.