Who Does Be­zos Turn to for Ad­vice? Brunello Cucinelli

The head of the Ital­ian fash­ion house talked about meet­ing the world’s rich­est man as the brand con­tin­ued its stel­lar growth.

WWD Digital Daily - - Wwd - BY LUISA ZARGANI

MI­LAN – Even the world’s rich­est man needs wardrobe ad­vice.

Brunello Cucinelli, on Tues­day dis­cussing his fash­ion brand’s con­tin­ued rapid growth, re­vealed that he met with Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos in San Fran­cisco in Septem­ber when the de­signer was there as part of the “Dream­force Con­fer­ence.” Cucinelli said he and Be­zos talked for two hours, not­ing that the In­ter­net ti­tan was not wear­ing a hoodie but a jacket with­out a tie.

“He asked me for [wardrobe] ad­vice,” said Cucinelli.

Cucinelli used Be­zos as an ex­am­ple of how there is still plenty of op­por­tu­nity for the brand’s men’s wear to grow, adding that he at­tended a din­ner in San Fran­cisco with 19 wealthy young men, who all wore jack­ets. This led him to speak of the sar­to­rial ser­vice he re­cently launched in 25 stores which he would like to ex­pand, with young tai­lors of­fer­ing wardrobe sug­ges­tions to cus­tomers.

“I don’t ac­cept the idea that men’s wear is suf­fer­ing — it’s just that there is a need for a fresher prod­uct,” said Cucinelli, adding that busi­ness­men still need suits, but that these must be ad­justed with modern de­tails. “And they need some­one to ad­vise them. You don’t know how many wives of rich men ask us to help their hus­bands to wear clothes that look fresher.”

That spells lots of op­por­tu­nity for his brand — and the ex­ec­u­tive sees plenty of growth po­ten­tial ahead. Dis­cussing his name­sake com­pany’s sales in the first nine months of the year, which grew 8.3 per­cent to 422.1 mil­lion eu­ros, com­pared with 389.9 mil­lion eu­ros in the same pe­riod last year, Cucinelli said he ex­pected dou­ble-digit growth in rev­enues for the full year.

Dur­ing a call with an­a­lysts at the end of trad­ing on the Mi­lan Bourse, Cucinelli, who is chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the lux­ury com­pany, said he also ex­pected “more than pro­por­tional” earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, taxes, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­za­tion and prof­its. Based on the pos­i­tive per­for­mance of the brand’s win­ter col­lec­tions and the or­ders for next sum­mer, he ex­pected dou­ble-digit growth in 2019.

Cucinelli was up­beat about the growth in all rel­e­vant mar­kets in the nine months ended Sept. 30 and said that he did not see any slow­down in China, “on the con­trary,” echo­ing peers such as Gucci and Mon­cler. “It will be the mar­ket of the fu­ture, this is the cen­tury of China,” he con­tended. In the pe­riod, rev­enues in Greater China grew 29.2 per­cent to 38.1 mil­lion eu­ros, ac­count­ing for 9 per­cent of the to­tal, lifted by the in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated Chi­nese con­sumer, said Cucinelli, ap­pre­cia­tive of Ital­ian crafts­man­ship and spe­cial items, with a grow­ing fo­cus on a no-logo of­fer­ing.

The com­pany is look­ing to sell on­line in China by mid-2019, and is eval­u­at­ing a part­ner to this end. Asked by one an­a­lyst if he had con­sid­ered part­ner­ing with Alibaba, Cucinelli said he could not re­spond yet and ex­pressed his be­lief in “true, ab­so­lute lux­ury,” as his main guide­line.

“We have just come back from sev­eral trips around the world and we are now back with re­newed, great con­fi­dence in our coun­try. Abroad there is still strong ad­mi­ra­tion for our cul­ture, our hand­crafted prod­ucts, and our abil­ity to find the best and beau­ti­ful side in all things,” said Cucinelli. “Main­tain­ing the qual­ity of prod­ucts that the world ex­pects from us will be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. This will be the fu­ture for our com­pany: pre­serv­ing the har­mony of places and peo­ple we are renowned for; main­tain­ing the cre­ativ­ity, crafts­man­ship and ex­clu­siv­ity ac­knowl­edged to us by ex­perts and cus­tomers; de­sign­ing fresh, modern and con­tem­po­rary col­lec­tions of very high stand­ing, rep­re­sent­ing the true essence of lux­ury.”

Cucinelli said that on­line sales ac­count for around 10 per­cent of the to­tal glob­ally, in­clud­ing the web sites of multi­brand re­tail­ers, and said he ex­pects the amount of smaller multi­brand on­line plat­forms to in­crease as more phys­i­cal stores open world­wide, cit­ing the growth of ban­ners in China as an ex­am­ple.

In the nine months, sales in Italy were up 5.5 per­cent to 74.4 mil­lion eu­ros, rep­re­sent­ing 17.6 per­cent of the to­tal, lifted by both lo­cal and tourist spend­ing.

Rev­enues in Europe rose 9.7 per­cent to 127.4 mil­lion eu­ros, rep­re­sent­ing 30.2 per­cent of the to­tal, lifted by all rel­e­vant mar­kets and a pos­i­tive tourist trend, both as con­cerns Asian tourists, with an in­creased pres­ence of Chi­nese cus­tomers, and those ar­riv­ing from other parts of the world.

Growth con­tin­ued in North Amer­ica, which was up 3.3 per­cent to 135.7 mil­lion eu­ros, rep­re­sent­ing 32.2 per­cent of the to­tal, boosted by both the mono­brand and multi­brand chan­nels and the con­sol­i­dated re­la­tion­ships with lead­ing lux­ury de­part­ment stores.

Sales in the Rest of the World area grew 9.5 per­cent to 46.6 mil­lion eu­ros, rep­re­sent­ing 11 per­cent of the to­tal.

The re­tail mono­brand chan­nel grew 6.8 per­cent to 206.1 mil­lion eu­ros, rep­re­sent­ing 48.8 per­cent of the to­tal.

The com­pany had 100 bou­tiques at the end of Septem­ber, with two open­ings in the first nine months of 2018, in ad­di­tion to the four con­ver­sions to the whole­sale mono­brand chan­nel of the two Sin­ga­pore bou­tiques in June and the St. Peters­burg and Copen­hagen bou­tiques in July.

Sales of the whole­sale mono­brand chan­nel grew 11.2 per­cent to 24.2 mil­lion eu­ros, with 27 bou­tiques, in­clud­ing four con­ver­sions to the di­rect chan­nel and the open­ing at the pres­ti­gious Dubai Mall in the first quar­ter of 2018. The whole­sale multi­brand chan­nel grew 9.5 per­cent to 191.8 mil­lion eu­ros.

In the next two years, Cucinelli ex­pects in­vest­ments of be­tween 7 and 8 per­cent of sales.

He spoke of the event he held in Solomeo, Italy, home to the com­pany’s head­quar­ters, in Septem­ber, which was at­tended by 500 jour­nal­ists, say­ing that he counted 129 in­ter­views in the month. On that oc­ca­sion, Cucinelli pre­sented the con­clu­sion of a project first un­veiled in De­cem­ber 2014 and car­ried through by the Brunello and Fed­er­ica Cucinelli Foun­da­tion, which sees the restora­tion of the out­skirts of Solomeo. Cucinelli re­cov­ered 173 acres of land near his man­u­fac­tur­ing plant and tore down six old in­dus­trial build­ings, plant­ing vineyards, olive trees, sun­flow­ers and wheat, among other things, build­ing a mon­u­ment in traver­tine as a trib­ute to hu­man dig­nity and a wine cel­lar, with a statue of Bac­chus placed at the en­trance. Spir­i­tu­al­ity is so ev­i­dent in Solomeo, Cucinelli said, that he de­cided to call the town the “Ham­let of the Spirit.”

Brunello Cucinelli presents the Ham­let of the Spirit.

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