Furla to Go Fur-Free

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY LUISA ZARGANI

MI­LAN — Furla is the lat­est fash­ion brand to go fur-free, be­gin­ning with the cruise 2019 col­lec­tion that will be in stores in Novem­ber. All women’s and men’s prod­ucts will be made us­ing eco­log­i­cal fur.

“Over the past year, Furla has grown ex­po­nen­tially at an in­ter­na­tional level,” said Al­berto Camer­lengo, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the group. “The de­ci­sion to pro­gres­sively ban from the col­lec­tions the use of an­i­mal fur is a project that con­firms the brand’s in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the en­vi­ron­ment, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the an­i­mal world, to which Furla is very sen­si­tive. The de­ci­sion, more­over, re­sponds to the grow­ing re­quest for eth­i­cal prod­ucts by con­sumers who are more and more aware and at­ten­tive to these themes.”

Camer­lengo un­der­scored that the tech­no­log­i­cal progress made in re­cent years al­lows the com­pany to have valid al­ter­na­tives, mak­ing it point­less and un­nec­es­sary to use an­i­mal furs.

The de­ci­sion is aligned with pres­i­dent Gio­vanna Furlan­etto’s own sen­si­bil­ity. Dur­ing an in­ter­view at Furla’s of­fices in Mi­lan, Furlan­etto proudly showed the Mantra bag she car­ries reg­u­larly, say­ing it was one of the brand’s best-sell­ing items. But what grat­i­fies her is the fact that the bag is made us­ing veg­etable tan­ning, a tra­di­tional treat­ment that re­lies on plant-based tan­ning. Launched last year and avail­able in white and black cot­ton at a se­lect num­ber of stores, it re­tails at 550 eu­ros and is part of a spe­cial project fo­cused on sus­tain­abil­ity in man­u­fac­tur­ing. “It is reg­u­larly sold out,” she said.

Although the use of fur at the Ital­ian ac­ces­sories com­pany over the years has been lim­ited, a quick scroll on In­sta­gram shows just how at­ten­tive con­sumers are to the is­sue. Re­spond­ing to pho­tos teased on the so­cial me­dia plat­form, com­ments in­cluded: “Please stop an­i­mal abuse. Cru­elty is not fash­ion­able;” “Hi, I’m an an­i­mal lover and was won­der­ing if you can try to use less fur in your prod­ucts? I know you prob­a­bly think the an­i­mals lived their best life, but they don’t, they most of­ten live hor­ri­ble lives,” and “Furla could stand for some­thing so beau­ti­ful us­ing only syn­thet­ics or faux fur. Start a move­ment!”

Sev­eral fash­ion brands have re­vealed fur-free poli­cies in re­cent months, in­clud­ing Michael Kors and Jimmy Choo, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Gucci, which un­veiled its plans in Oc­to­ber. The de­ci­sion aligned the Ital­ian brand with the prac­tices of its Ker­ing sta­ble­mate Stella McCart­ney, who has long es­chewed the use of fur and leather, as well as with Ralph Lau­ren, Gior­gio Ar­mani, Tommy Hil­figer and Calvin Klein. Re­tail­ers in­clud­ing the Yoox Net-a-porter Group and Sel­fridges have also said “no” to fur.

Furla’s de­ci­sion comes on the heels of the com­pany’s “best-ever” year in 2017, said Furlan­etto. “This was par­tic­u­larly grat­i­fy­ing be­cause it was also the fam­ily-owned com­pany’s 90th an­niver­sary. We had the high­est earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, taxes, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­za­tion, and ex­panded around the world.”

The Ital­ian ac­ces­sories com­pany saw EBITDA climb 34.1 per­cent and, ac­cord­ing to WWD cal­cu­la­tions, reach more than 80 mil­lion eu­ros. In the 12 months ended Dec. 31, sales rose 18.3 per­cent to 499 mil­lion eu­ros. At con­stant ex­change rates, rev­enues were up 20 per­cent.

In May 2016, Furla set in mo­tion plans to go pub­lic, ink­ing an agree­ment with TIP Tam­buri In­vest­ment Part­ners SpA, but the ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing was post­poned last year and Furlan­etto said that, “since liq­uid­ity is not an is­sue,” there were no new de­vel­op­ments on the sub­ject.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Al­berto Camer­lengo em­pha­sized the sin­gle-digit like-for­like growth and in­creased world­wide sales in all mar­kets last year. “We bought back our busi­ness in Aus­tralia and Por­tu­gal, we grew in Asia solidly, we con­sol­i­dated Japan, we in­creased sales in Europe, which is a dif­fi­cult mar­ket now, and also in the U.S., where, de­spite the [lo­cal] com­plex­i­ties, we grew at re­tail — it was all very pos­i­tive. We are par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fied.”

In par­tic­u­lar, at con­stant ex­change rates, sales in Asia-Pa­cific rose 50 per­cent, ac­count­ing for 24 per­cent of the to­tal.

The com­pany opened a flag­ship in

Beijing in De­cem­ber at Beijing WF Cen­tral, with its big­gest façade in the world, cov­er­ing 3,996 square feet. Camer­lengo said it was eas­ier to find the right re­tail space in these new mar­kets. “In Asia, you can re­ally make a state­ment [with real es­tate],” he ob­served. Furla has just bought back its busi­ness from a dis­trib­u­tor in Sin­ga­pore, where it counts five stores.

Rev­enues in Japan, where the com­pany has been present since 1990, climbed 15.4 per­cent, ac­count­ing for 23 per­cent of to­tal rev­enues. “Japan is the sin­gle most im­por­tant mar­ket for us,” said Furlan­etto. “We are reap­ing the re­wards of years of sow­ing in that mar­ket.” Furla just opened new of­fices in Tokyo’s Aoyama district, bring­ing the to­tal num­ber of em­ploy­ees in Japan to 430. In the re­gion, there are 79 di­rectly op­er­ated Furla stores and Furla’s men’s divi­sion has grown to ac­count for 11 per­cent of sales. “Men’s wear is do­ing very well in Japan, they are very open to new prod­ucts — more than other coun­tries, where our women’s DNA some­times lim­its a lit­tle our ex­pan­sion in men’s,” said Furlan­etto.

Sales in the U.S. grew 9.6 per­cent, ac­count­ing for 7 per­cent of the to­tal. Camer­lengo said that, while growth in the U.S. was driven by the re­tail chan­nel, the com­pany has a solid busi­ness with depart­ment stores, too, in­clud­ing Bloom­ing­dale’s — which is open­ing new Furla doors — and Saks Fifth Av­enue. “We work with those that pre­serve the brand, that don’t do wild dis­count­ing and pro­mo­tions,” he ex­plained.

The com­pany this year will open a store in South Coast Plaza in Los An­ge­les, af­ter two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Last month,

Furla opened a pop-up store that will be in busi­ness for one year at Fo­rum Shops at Cae­sars in Las Ve­gas, and will un­veil a unit at Aven­tura Mall in Mi­ami this year. “This is an ex­cep­tional lo­ca­tion to set a foot into South Amer­ica,” said Furlan­etto.

The Europe, Mid­dle East and Africa re­gion was up 12.9 per­cent, rep­re­sent­ing 46 per­cent of rev­enues. In the first quar­ter of 2018, open­ings are ex­pected in the EMEA re­gion in par­tic­u­lar in Ger­many and in the Czech Re­pub­lic. “Europe is per­form­ing well and we are grow­ing in Ger­many, where there is a strong brand aware­ness be­cause of our pres­ence in depart­ment stores, but we are in­vest­ing in street stores. We just opened a ban­ner in Frank­furt and next up are units in Düs­sel­dorf and Ber­lin, in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing venue in Mu­nich,” said Camer­lengo.

Furla has been ra­tio­nal­iz­ing its net­work in Italy, clos­ing small stores in small cities, but at the same time the brand has be­come avail­able at spe­cialty stores such as Luisa

Via Roma in Florence and Franz Kraler in ex­clu­sive moun­tain re­sort Cortina d’Am­pezzo, Italy. Italy ac­counts for 15 per­cent of sales.

Last year, re­tail rev­enues ac­counted for 70 per­cent of to­tal sales.

The com­pany to­day is present in around 100 coun­tries and re­lies on a world­wide dis­tri­bu­tion net­work of 467 stores, com­pared with 444 in 2016. Of these, 253 are di­rectly op­er­ated, 177 are fran­chised and 37 are in the travel re­tail chan­nel. Sales in travel re­tail gained 14.5 per­cent.

Asked about for­eign ex­change rates, Furlan­etto ac­knowl­edged the strong euro is pe­nal­iz­ing the com­pany, as the brand has be­come more ex­pen­sive for Asians in Europe, but Camer­lengo un­der­scored that the com­pany is not chang­ing its prices.

“Our strat­egy and path are clear, we want to of­fer an ex­cel­lent prod­uct at the right price and we don’t want to change that or cor­rect prices to fol­low the fluc­tu­a­tions of the cur­ren­cies pe­nal­iz­ing our cus­tomers,” he said.

The com­pany has also been in­vest­ing in its or­ga­ni­za­tion. In Jan­uary, Furla re­vealed the ac­qui­si­tion of Ef­fe­uno Srl, a long­time part­ner com­pany spe­cial­ized in man­u­fac­tur­ing leather goods. Based in Tavar­nelle Val di Pesa, a 40-minute drive from Florence, the 53,820-square-foot plant al­ready ex­clu­sively pro­duced Furla’s ac­ces­sories, em­ploy­ing over 100 work­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ing two mil­lion pieces a year be­tween bags and small leather goods. The takeover is part of the brand’s strat­egy to in­vest in Italy and aims to strengthen the group’s sup­ply chain, boost­ing pro­duc­tion.

The com­pany in Fe­bru­ary launched its new on­line plat­form in China, as it works to im­prove dig­i­tal sales, with a fo­cus on mo­bile.

In the end, how­ever, it’s about “sur­pris­ing the cus­tomer, there are so many bags out there, ev­ery­body is do­ing bags, but we need to be cre­ative and in­no­va­tive, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing our prod­uct. It’s in­creas­ingly more dif­fi­cult, but this is what has helped us to emerge — rein­vent­ing our­selves,” said Furlan­etto.

The Ital­ian ac­ces­sories com­pany has vowed to go fur-free start­ing with the cruise 2019 col­lec­tion, which will be in stores in Novem­ber.

A Furla bag from the fall col­lec­tion.

The new Furla store in Beijing at WF Cen­tral.

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