Dondup has just inaugurated its new flagship store in Milan, in Via Spiga 50, in the golden triangle of the city’s luxury shopping area, as a first step of a new retail concept and strategy. This Milan opening will soon be followed by a second store in Rome, and a further international expansion strategy.

The store, designed by Manuela Mariotti, co-founder and creative director, Dondup, and the Labics architecture studio, is structured as a whole project in-progress that occupies two floors and incorporates different spaces and areas.

The new flagship aims at communicating what is behind a piece of clothing as a varied mix of elements such as art, craftsmanship, new material research and industrial expertise. An area of the store placed near the entrance of its inner courtyard will host periodically new upcoming artists, temporarily presenting their unique pieces – be it samples of art, handicrafts or various other installations.

This store’s opening is part of an overall development process the brand is facing right after L Catterton (previously L Capital) bought its majority quotas in 2015 and Matteo Marzotto recently became stakeholder and president.

Dondup store in Milan
© SI
Dondup store in Milan

Marzotto is a long time expert manager and entrepreneur of the fashion business. He has been CEO of Fiera Vicenza since 2013 and was chairman of Vionnet from 2009 until 2013. He previously worked for Marzottto (2003-2008) managing the company’s brands as well as occupying top positions as CEO and chairman of Valentino.

Marzotto now expects to increase Dondup’s revenues from the present yearly sales of €55 million to about €90 million by 2020 and increase their export ratio from the present 20%. He explained to SI why he joined Dondup and shares some of his strategies and visions.



Why did you join Dondup?

Since 1999 I have been working in fashion starting from our family holding Marzotto Group. In those years many of our projects were focused on informal apparel, especially the Marlboro Classics brand, but also brands we produced under licensing agreements such as, for instance, M Missoni and GFF Ferré, under the guidance of Michele Norsa. Many of our activities focused on sportswear and fridaywear in those years.

Talking about Dondup it all started like a sort of coincidence. After I recently started doing some consultancy for them I got a very positive shock. I realised how they work, how keen they are about most different washes, finishings, coatings, abrasions, rippings, all different productive steps of making their products and especially their extraordinary care for fitting. Plus they own an over 10,000 item huge archive. Seeing all that made me go back to what I was doing at the beginning of my career.

I also saw Massimo Berloni and Manuela Mariotti working in this company which is like a full steam working machine and a great example of what I like to call the best of the “well done in Italy”. This expression not only means that it produces everything in Italy, but that it is also constantly evolving. And from what I had heard from Andrea Ottaviano, CEO of L Catterton [editor’s note: majority owner fund of Dondup] I loved this brand already without even knowing it. Then, after I met Massimo Berloni, I understood what a great potential everything has here. And - as I believe it is always a matter of chemistry - I was convinced it was the right moment for me to join it.

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How will you make this company develop?

I think Dondup works exactly as a fashion maison. Even if its origins and core business are jeans, this brand offers an incredibly high-research and high-value complete offer even if prices are medium-high. The company has an amazing creative and industrial organization capacity. With this same creativity it could serve the market more continuously. For this for the future it will start focusing on offering more capsule collections and replenish the market with new products more often and faster. And all this is possible thanks to the involvement of an important majority owner.

 

Dondup' store
© SI
Dondup' store

In which countries will Dondup grow?

We have already started expanding in Far East thanks to synergies of our fund and we are now evaluating strategies for growing in the US where I personally have very good connections. Dondup has to increase its visibility. It is a pity it cannot approach such markets. Prices and quality are already perfect though it needs to be part of some specific circuits. For this we will start with significant operations such as a series of store openings and the launch of an e-commerce platform from 2017. Instead, we will push ahead social and new media communication.

 

What does Dondup miss?

I think that the global fashion word is ruled and influenced by a relatively small group of people that I count to be about 200-300 people altogether. Those tightening the bolts are just a few ones in the end. For this Dondup’s new CEO Marco Casoni, who has worked for many companies such as Vionnet, Valentino and the Marzotto group but also for Marni (for 16 years), Ciwifurs, Calvin Klein Europe and Fendi, is the expert.

What this brand is missing is letting the market know what is behind it, that is the great credibility of this unique operating machine. They have a cult for detail, for repairing small product faults, a magnificent archive,... – all these chracteristics are hard to find! Plus they have a strong identity – and in the market you can find anything. For this we will start offering a slightly more complete collection including some trends and fits that can satisfy the needs of some markets that could become very crucial.

Dondup store in Milan
© SI
Dondup store in Milan

What is your mission right now?

We need to address customers, make them recognize this product’s peculiarities, make them return to and buy from us more than once. Dondup has this great recognition that can fidelize consumers. Consumers today shall not feel betrayed.

Do you own and wear any jeans?

Yes, I do. I buy and wear them and, especially when I find a fit or a model I feel fine with, I often buy two-three variants of that style for my wardrobe. I generally prefer to wear high-waisted models. They make me feel more at ease.



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