Italian functional jacket brands have to deal with an overcrowded market, price and environmental issues, plus global warming. In our most recent print edition, the Italian Issue, we asked them how they can succeed facing so many struggles.
When it comes to outerwear, Italy is one of the leading nations offering so many brands and so many leaders in this segment. How are they dealing with an oversaturated market and a growing number of international competitors? They all agreed on three key words: quality, research, innovation.
Why so many Italian brands?
Although this market is huge new brands always continue to spring up. Among them there is Brekka, a longtime specialist in funky winter skiing accessories, which launched its first outer jacket collection in f/w 2017-18. According to Brekka, the fact that Italian weather is so humid and cold through the Northern and Central regions is probably the reason why there are so many jacket brands from there. “People abroad believe Italy is warm and sunny throughout the year, but this is not true when it comes to most of Italian regions,” says Claudio Cannilla, Brekka’s CEO. “Besides, this market offers a variety of products that are good for both practical or technical reasons and everyday urban life.”
According to Peuterey’s president, Francesca Lusini, the outerwear segment is living a golden age worldwide, and not only in Italy. “Functionality is the basic need, as so many people are travelling and moving through different weather conditions. They need clothes that help them stay comfortable and be dressed in the right way for any occasion: outerwear items provide multiple options for comfortable looks that can fit any occasion.” Napapjiri explains that light and softshell jackets featuring high functionality standards can be worn everywhere every day, even if they were originally planned to be used in the mountains or in other extreme environments. This is possible because they meet people’s taste as far as styling and fit are concerned. The same opinion is shared by Ettore Laurenti, marketing director, Save the Duck: “The Italian market offers so many outerwear brands ’cause in Italy looking smart and trendy has always been a tradition. Jackets, starting with formal fits, are seen as basic items that give you the proper look on any scene.” He adds, “Wearing a jacket used to mean you were somebody that counted in society, as typical for instance in the Partenopean tradition, where tailor-made jackets are a must-have. Besides, the skills and the sophisticated research needed when you design and make a jacket are in Italy’s DNA since Italian fashion was born.”
Manuele Musso, Bomboogie’s CEO, thinks that outerwear items can give Italian talented designers a big chance to express themselves, because they put together fashion and technique, therefore they offer a great challenge for creatives. North Sails’ global creative director Ben Mears believes that Italian outerwear brands offer a unique perspective adding a rich lifestyle heritage to technical features, mixing performing garments with trendy styles.
Our secret? Always evolving and great skills
Remo Ruffini, Moncler’s president and CEO, believes that the only way to remain competitive, especially in the luxury sportswear segment, is meeting customers’ needs, which change very often. “You need to talk to this kind of consumer by giving them new instruments and codes, keeping the traditional ones at the same time,” he says. “ Being competitive means being able to offer as wide a product range as possible,” he adds. The reknown outer jacket brand has actually taken a younger and more street-minded direction. In fact, after closing the agreemt with Thom Browne and Gianbattista Valli for the exclusive Gamme Bleu and Gamme Rouge collecctions it launched a new special collection lfor f/w 2017-2018, created in partnership with New York-based lifestyle brand Kith, even if other collabs in the same are had been started already before.
Being competitive means being able to offer a product range as wide as possible.
Carlo Rivetti, president and creative director, Stone Island, explains that the market needs and demands in this segment are constantly growing: “The winning aspect of Italian brands is the top quality research on treatments and materials, together with highly innovative design and styles,” he says. On the other hand, Allegri’s brand manager Matteo Zara is not as confident: “Today a brand can become competitive if the company can keep prices affordable, and this is not easy, when you have high standards and want to guarantee top quality products. I’m afraid being a Made in Italy brand can only make a difference in the luxury segment.”
Laurenti, Save the Duck’s creative director, thinks that Italy has not been able to face the constant growth of Eastern manufacturing industry and its increased professional skills. “The manufacturing process in China and in other Eastern countries is much cheaper and more efficient than in Italy. On the other hand, Italy is still number one for creativity, design, care for details, and this is why it is still the country of reference in the sportswear and formalwear fashion segments.” Yet, iconic American utility outer apparel brands such as Blauer and Woolrich have become trendy fashion brands after they were bought or are co-owned by Italian companies: Italian skills and high quality materials have made these brands look new and more fashionable, giving their activewear, performing technical fits a new trendy flavor that pushed the sales. In this case it looks like being reinterpreted by Italian creativity actually makes the difference. “When high performance features meet creative styles and designs the result is a top selling product that customers are ready to buy at any price, as long as the relation between quality and price is reasonable,” says Enzo Fusco, creative director of FGF Industry and 50% shareholder of Blauer.
Another traditional military brand such as Aeronautica Militare has turned into a fashion label when research and original styles transformed the collection. “Our items are the result of the combination of our inspirational history and high quality fabrics and manufacturing,” the brand’s CEO, Paolo Sperotto, says. “We started our production with the reinterpretation of an iconic jacket and elaborated a total look collection that features performing characteristics that are very important for an outerwear brand: people want to be comfortable and look good.” When asked if being made or designed in Italy is really important for the market, all companies seem to agree on a few rules.
“Research, quality materials and manufacturing skills are universally known as some of Italian fashion characteristics worldwide. Being a made or designed in Italy brand means that global customers believe you give them quality and basically a well made product you can trust,” says Herno’s president Carlo Marenzi. According to Bomboogie’s CEO Manuele Musso, since outerwear collections are a mix of fashion and technique, which are Italy’s recognized skills, a Made in Italy jacket brand is automatically considered as a top one. This is also the opinion of Slam’s chief inspiration officer Federico Repetto: “Italian style is important, but the true key to success is the ability to offer an organic, rich, complete collection that features items of strong impact. Other than that, coherence and quality are a must-have.”
Also Parajumpers believes in the importance to offer high-quality produtcs. “Our goal is creating long lasting items that feature a strong identity," commented Cristina Paulon, marketing and sales director, Parajumpers. "The secret for a successful outerwear collection are technical features such as waterproof and windproof materials able to stand any kind of weather and temperatures."
Ecofriendly processes and materials are must today.
New perspectives and eco-friendliness
Is this all? Don’t fashion brands need more to hit the market? Or is it being Made in Italy only a synonym for tradition, the consequence of a long lasting manufacturing history? What about the future? Maybe innovation is not only a question of new fabrics or treatments, but rather a new vision of the fashion industry that can be translated into an overview of future challenges, like, for instance, the protection of the environment. “Caring for the environment is a must, not just a question of choice, it is fundamental for a company even when this company doesn’t promote or communicate it to the press,” says Carlo Rivetti from Stone Island. It seems like it is inevitable to go green, as the environment issue is a very big and urgent issue for contemporary consumers. “Ecofriendly processes and materials are a must today,” says Fulvio Botto, owner of Pattern, Esemplare’s producing company. “That, and a great self consciousness of the customers, force producers of any kind of items to pay attention to environmental issues, as typical of our era,” he adds. “Statistics show that consumers choose green brands over the non green, synthetic fur over real fur, technical materials over feathers coming from unfair geese breeding,” says Brekka’s Cannilla. Save the Duck–which already employs synthetic paddings only–recently launched jackets made with 100% recycled and recyclable fabric, Esemplare presented a collection of styles made entirely with recycled materials, Slam is using recycled waste coming from the sea to make brand new products, and Napapjiri abolished animal feathers and fur from its f/w 2017-18 collection–but they are not the only ones to care about ecologic issues.
Facing global warming
Most of the fashion producing companies have chosen processes that are sustainable and don’t increase pollution. As a consequence of this pollution, the world’s climate is changing and therefore creating another huge problem such as the rise of the global temperature. How do companies that produce jackets, coats and puff jackets handle this problem? “We face global warming with the production of jackets made of smart materials that protect either from cold or warm temperatures and are extremely light,” Botto continues. The same item becomes a multiseasonal one, good for winter and spring, sometimes even summer, and this is another reason why customers like jackets and are willing to pay good money when they want to buy one, as long as it’s well made and resistant. Another solution seems to be the layering, as in Allegri’s collection, or the use of technologies that allow fabrics to adapt to the changing of body temperature, as in Hevo.
Transeasonal items are the new trend: smart fabrics and materials are a key aspect for most of the brands, together with the natural and more traditional ones, like leather and wool, that can also guarantee–being natural–the perfect body insulation from cold or warm temperatures. But what about the looks? “Outerwear garments give people slim cut, good looking looks as design evolves,” says Fabio Falcetta, who is responsible for Hevo’s style office. “Jackets and puffed jackets no longer look huge or shapeless,” he adds. “People look stylish even when they wear informal outfits. You can be casual and still look smart, which is very important especially for Italian customers,” he explains. “Italian consumers are very picky and the Italian market is highly complex,” says Zara from Allegri. “Constant innovation and reasonable prices are the key to success,” he says. “There is no other way to face the global market. The Made in Italy label is important, but being produced in Italy is not enough if you don’t guarantee top quality product and competitive prices, since the European outerwear market is becoming very attractive, too. The only way to guarantee these standards for a company is to invest in R&D: innovative materials can give an item high performance and attractive looks.”
There is no other way than going forward, studying and inventing. Italian tradition can only be a winning aspect when it meets creativity and contemporary techniques. Italian DNA? Yes–but aiming at the world.
Find out more about the stars and shapers in the brand new print magazine or check the digital magazine here.