Alberto Grosso, 31, founder and CEO of the sportswear brand Oplà, talked to Barbara Stockinger recently about taking a bite out of sportswear and growing the retail business worldwide.

For SS 2009 you launched a vintage polo shirt collection with genuine shark bites. How were they done?
The shirts are treated in the Atlantic Ocean six kilometers from the coast. Every polo gets wrapped around a floating tube and stuffed with pieces of barracuda—the sharks’ favorite food—so that the sharks are attracted. The sharks bite the fish and polo, it separates, but with the floating tube comes back to the water surface. In this project we worked together with the Bahamas-based Bimini Biological Field Station and expert in marine biology Samuel H. Gruber, who specializes in the evolution of sharks.

How did this collaboration come about?
In the beginning we wanted to demonstrate that a shirt bitten by a shark is even less stripped than in a car incident. When seeing the result we realized that the “bitten” shirts were very beautiful. So we wore them and started to create a whole collection. We won’t have profits from this collection, since the profits will be given to the Bimini Biological Field Station. The polo and its realization became an international patent of our company.

What fascinates you about sharks?
It is fascinating how gentle they are. The stories about their dangerousness are pure fantasy linked to the world of cinema. We worked in the deep ocean in close contact with these animals and we noticed how gentle they are and how important it is to protect the sea they live in.

Apart from the Aumakua-project, what is going to happen with brand Oplà?
Retail-wise there is going to be a lot happening. At the moment we have two own-brand stores—one in Alba and one in Turin. In the next three years we are going to open ten more monobrand stores, one of which will be in Dubai by 2010. And we’ve even planned flagship stores in Santa Monica and New York, both of which are going to be opened between 2009 and 2010.

Currently how many countries and POS is Oplà sold in?
At the moment we sell to 200 multibrand stores, 100 of which are in Italy. The rest are in countries like USA, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Indonesia and Japan. We have been in the market since 2005. In terms of turnover the strongest selling markets are Italy and Japan.

Did you ever think you would become a total-look brand?
At the moment we don’t have it even in the antechamber of the brain to do jeans or trousers. There are companies that live of that and make it definitely better than we would do. I am convinced that if you don’t want to be a “monster” in this competitive environment, it is important to make one thing and this one thing good instead of making more things in a “sufficient” way.