Why did you buy Barleycorn back?
Two years ago, in May 2015, recently after my father Gianfranco’s departure and while the Fornarina brand was starting to face a new course, me and my wife decided to buy all quotas of Barleycorn. I have always liked the brand my father had founded in 1941. I also liked the idea to return to that same company my father had founded and I had spent much of my childhood in – I remember the smell of leather, of the tanning process and of all production phases done inside it as that company was completely vertical. In this factory Fornarina had been produced between 1995 and 2005. It was like going back to a product and a story I always belonged to.
How are you relaunching it?
I liked the idea that I could concentrate on a small project where craftsmanship and Made in Italy can play a key role - for this I started working with important local laboratories. Though, I also wanted to add strong technical content. I also started working with key sole manufacturers that can produce EVA cushions and advanced technology techniques like Xlite components by Finproject, a local top manufacturer, also working with renowned footwear brands including Armani and Camper.
We started relaunching some of the brand’s historic models like the Classic that set the rebirth of the brand in 1991. We revamped the New Classic Sneaker launched in 1997, and our Air model that we launched in 2011.
What new projects are you focusing on?
During this June 2017 edition of Pitti Uomo we are launching Air Grecale, our fourth model, another hybrid sneaker, like all of our styles. It’s an unlined minimalistic shoe with neoprene uppers and almost imperceptible engraved details. It’s another crossover between a laced-up men’s shoe and a sneaker.
Starting from f/w 2018/2019 we will also launch a new model especially designed for women as targeting women requires specific products and strategies.
To whom are you selling?
We are mostly selling in Italy. Then comes France, which accounts for 25% of our sales. We are already selling in Germany and are starting to expand in Belgium right now. We are now distributing to about 200 doors including top retailers such as Oi Polloi in Manchester, Tsum and Bosco dei Ciliegi in Russia and Beymen in Turkey.
What are retailers looking for most today?
Retailers have passed through various storms and have now grown very disenchanted. When they buy today they want services and a true history. They want to tell interesting stories about unique and special products. Before, they used to buy a bit of everything. Today they cannot risk it anymore.
What are consumers looking for?
They are now looking for authentic products that can excite them and they can only have for themselves. Plus they are looking for lightness and comfort. All of these characteristics belong to this brand. I have kept all these aspects within products with a unique design.
What is the future of the footwear market?
Comfort is a constant aspect everyone wants to have – adult and kids want it. Teenagers and young people don’t know anything else than sneakers. When they wear a pair of shoes in cuir they say: “I feel strange”, as they only wore sneakers until now.