“Sometimes, I say that this company is turning into a publishing house,” says Francesco Pesci, the CEO of Italian luxury-menswear house Brioni, as he settles into a leather sofa in the private room at the brand’s new – and first – standalone boutique in Singapore. While Brioni has been rapidly expanding its global network of stores since being acquired by French conglomerate Kering (formerly PPR) in 2011, it is certainly not going into the book business. Pesci is referring to the changes that the formerly family-owned company has undergone over the past two years, including the fact that company practices now have to be properly elucidated and formalised in print.
He notes: “With a company that’s family-owned, as a practice, a lot of things are not put on paper. So, when someone retires, those things may be lost. The keys to success need to be recorded, framed and imposed on the next generation. You must have a visual merchandising manual, retail manual, made-to-measure manual, and so on. We have to formalise the rules that have made Brioni successful.”
Famously worn by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig in the James Bond films, and favoured by celebrities and politicians, the brand has established itself as one of the most important names in high-end menswear since it was founded in Rome in 1945. From its su misura – or bespoke – to its ready-to-wear pieces, traditional Italian tailoring is combined with what Pesci describes as “timeless elegance”. (Not for Brioni, then, any of the shortened or skinny silhouettes that have come and gone in menswear in recent years.) Which is exactly what luxury-menswear buyers are looking for, if the company’s 2010 turnover of 170 million euros (S$288.6 million) is any indication.
Buttressed by its powerful backer, Brioni is looking to grow its business even further. The Brioni store at Marina Bay Sands, opened in partnership with the Uomo Group – which operates luxury-menswear stores in Singapore and Moscow – is part of a major push into Asia. The brand will be opening stores in China, Hong Kong and Thailand, while “looking closely” at Vietnam. It also plans to increase its presence in the US and Europe.
Despite the number of luxury brands that have been expanding operations in Asia in recent years, Pesci is dismissive of the notion that the regional market for high-end goods might be becoming saturated. “Asia has just started,” he says, adding that “the challenge is in maintaining the exclusivity of your brand as demand grows very strongly”.