“Store image is important, though product is fundamental,” according to Dario Bravi, Federico and his father Fedele Berta, co-owners of the two Airness stores of Milan and nearby town Cusano Milanino. Basketball is a high-potential growth market for Italy, according to the three professionals who respectively opened these shop in Milan in May 2014 and in the nearby town in 2009. They share the same passion for this sport, sneakers, apparel and street-fashion inspired by basketball but also offer gadgets and art pieces related to this up-and-coming important sport. By the end of 2015 they will open their third Airness store in Rome inside Città Futura, a dedicated sports village near EUR area. “We founded these stores because there are not many independent spots specialized in segments like the basketball-meets-streetwear in Italy,” they explain referring to the fact that their bestselling products sell out the same day they arrive in store. Not bad for an upcoming niche market. Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini

What are the current bestsellers and why?
We are specialists in selling apparel and sneakers for basketball, but, considering that this sport is influencing streetwear, we are selling well fashion-driven models such as the parka and the varsity sweatshirt.

Referring to brands Nike is our bestselling brand above all. Also Adidas is selling well. APL sneakers we sell too (also because we are the only ones to sell them in Europe) and Under Armour (especially sneakers). We sell Mitchell & Ness (also from the US) well and especially their snapback hats and apparel because some US basketball teams also wear them. Also New Era’s caps sell well as some technical items by Spalding, McDavid and EA7, Armani basketball uniforms especially popular in Milan.

Going back to Nike’s absolute bestselling products are those from their Jordan brand. As soon as they arrive in store they are already sold out. For this most customers reserve them in advance. They are so successful because they are offered in limited quantities, are sought after, are very high-quality and very expensive, too.

Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
People buy first of all according to brand because they are influenced by advertising and brand power, but also very often by the personality, or testimonial who wears them.

Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends?
We keep updated by always staying in touch with companies and participating in their presentations or events. For the rest we are always interested in new brands and trends, even if some companies also ask us if we are interested in selling their products.

How important is the communication with regular customers? How do you communicate with them?
Communicating with our consumer is fundamental. We keep them informed through our e-commerce website and through social networks, especially via Instagram.

How do the collections you offer for next fall/winter look like? What are the most important trends, in general?
There will be a definite shift toward retro and a rediscovery of old school streetwear from the ‘90s for streetwear, while for activewear there will be a general return to color and strong impact effects. In basketball there will be a return to oversize fits contrasting the last months when more regular fitting items dominated.

Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
We mostly enlarged our offer in order to also include more street-fashion minded pieces.

What do you like about your customers?
We like their curiosity and their constant search for new products. It is also a stimulus for us to be as much updated as possible.

How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
It is fundamental but it is not everything. We think that the product is still fundamental. Thanks to its color and peculiarities we also create the image of the store, but customers are interested mostly in what we sell. Despite this we are very keen about the image of our stores. Each of them is characterized by a different attitude, even if all of them have some common elements. The one opened in the surroundings of Milan is more sporty. This one based in Milan city center is like a boutique while the one in Rome will be more design-minded.

Here in our Milan store the atmosphere is also strongly created for instance, by hosting - and selling - paintings by M.A.S., an artist from the street and hip-hop scene from Pordenone (Italy) who is now living in the US. His works are obtained through a special technique through which he personalizes photos and images with spray art and acrylic paint decorating techniques.

We also often host athletes our clients are serious fans of. We also organize events tied to the world of sneakers collectors connected, for instance to “Swap Meet Italy”. And since our co-owner Federico Berta is a passionate collector we sometime organize in-store exhibitions like the one we held at the end of 2014 focused on sneakers from the ’80s until today.

Via Santa Maria alla Porta, 5
20123 Milano
+39 02 8909 4014

Via Erba, 14
20095 Cusano Milanino
+39 02 49662300