MILAN — After two years of the pandemic, clichéd statements about the emergency representing an opportunity to revamp one’s business values and regain renewed energy actually seem true.
Since February 2020, many young names have emerged, capitalizing on the opportunities offered by the direct-to-consumer business model, aligning their brands with sustainable and socially charged values and developing plans for lifestyle proposals that transcend fashion products. .
In a country where female entrepreneurship has lagged, for cultural and political reasons, the fashion world in Italy has provided some good examples over the past two years with a number of female-led brands that have gained momentum.
WWD met the women behind some of these fashion projects.
Like many fledgling projects, Tu Lizé began as a hobby for Camilla Lorenzi and Beatrice Selini, who never really saw fashion as a job opportunity despite coming from a family that ran a business. accessories manufacturing company.
A chance encounter with a bargain hunter who sold military clothing led the duo to upcycling, adding colorful crochet sleeves and soon drawing praise from friends and acquaintances. This prompted them to launch the brand in 2021 and present their first collection for Spring 2022, attracting orders from around 30 high-end retailers in Italy.
“We have always been passionate about vintage pieces and when we found the military jackets, we decided to give them a twist by injecting them with femininity and romance via crochet,” explained Lorenzi. She acknowledged that the use of military clothing in the current scenario given the war in Ukraine has taken on a different meaning, but she pointed out that the vintage quality of the pieces is what matters most to them, rather than the pattern. specific they carry.
The duo presented their second collection during Milan Fashion Week in February, an opportunity to boost their international visibility. They made new business contacts in France, Germany, Switzerland as well as Bergdorf Goodman, who got to know the brand via a street-style image of a girl wearing the signature Tu Lizé parka. Wholesale distribution is still in its infancy and is complemented by an e-commerce site.
“The response from buyers has been outstanding; I think it’s not a product that you can easily find,” Lorenzi said. “We launched during the pandemic when the market was probably craving something new and we delivered just that.”
The autumn collection was enriched with the re-imagined iconic military parka and jumpsuit, introducing a new gray iteration, but was also filled with ready-to-wear pieces, resulting in a range of its own whole. While their commitment is to continue capitalizing on the upcycling component, the creative duo are eager to grow a recognizable brand beyond their signature outerwear.
Young fashion designers are increasingly turning to craftsmanship to unleash their creativity and develop responsible business models. Rome-born Eugenia Penta and Francesca Filipo started Vernisse in 2019 out of a passion for vintage and archival fabrics.
“Finding out how the rich archives of textile companies could be incentivized to develop a circular economy project and develop timeless, timeless garments,” Penta said.
Their entire collection is made from vintage scraps, trims and accessories, and the pair have recognized the challenges of sourcing textiles available in sufficient quantities to meet demand. They partner with a dozen silk and wool companies, based in the famous textile district of Como, Italy, and occasionally in France, but continue to seek out private fabric collections through vintage merchants and antique dealers and source raw textiles that are overprinted and dyed.
“Each collection is built on the textiles we find, and our goal is to make them look contemporary and modern,” Filipo said. “These are timeless clothes [that] don’t follow any trends and adapt to different women and body types,” she added, noting how practicality is paramount.
Further marking their penchant for sustainability, the buttons come from a Milan-based supplier that has been around since the 1970s, while the packaging and gift bags are made from scrap organza and other fabrics, often from the main textile company Ratti.
Vernisse launched d-to-c, releasing different drops throughout the season and making products to order, which helped the duo stay consistent with their green bent and grow their business in a sustainable way.
Accompanying its e-commerce site, the brand has already organized trade shows in key international cities such as Paris. “It was essential for us that customers experience the brand first-hand, so it was the natural first step to setting up distribution outside of the digital channel,” Filipo said.
Pop-ups are also considered a great business enabler. Vernisse was part of the pop-up boutique “L’Italien à Paris” held at the Le Molière mansion last December and developed a holiday-themed capsule collection for fashionable retail destination Modes. , in which devoré velvet, faux fur and 80s Lurex fabrics evoked a festive air. The duo said similar activations would be launched in the future.
Unique product brands can be difficult to scale unless they come with a lifestyle proposition. Example: Bragoon’s slogan “Let It Rain” embodies the brand’s cheerful mood that can be adapted to different projects.
Born out of a personal desire to combat the rainy day blues, co-founder and creative director Luisa Fachini, a Milan-based scooter rider, developed waterproof overtrousers that feature psychedelic, vintage prints and are made from derived fabrics PET. They are unisize, unisex and unifit.
Joined in her venture by her friends Marella Pessina and Simona Orsini, e-commerce manager and general manager respectively, Fachini wanted to offer a good reason to embrace Milan’s rainy and gray days with an optimistic mood. Launched at the end of 2020, the brand quickly introduced its second product – gaiters in the same pattern – and the three businesswomen are now aiming to test the waters with an outerwear piece called ‘Above’, which they have just presented as part of a partnership. with So.De, an ethical social delivery service based in Milan, to which they supplied uniforms, including a hooded parka.
Other ties with unexpected partners are on the way, Orsini said. “We love orchestrating different projects and venturing outside of our core business [fashion] Business. Bragoon is not only products but a design and sustainable project [that] can easily adapt to different areas,” she explained.
As part of their sustainable commitment, the three co-founders seek to shorten the supply chain, which involves several players spread throughout Italy, as well as to find ecological alternatives for the coating.
“We believe sustainability should be embraced holistically, and we are committed to supporting ethical work [initiatives] and a responsible pipeline. We want to team up with partners who share our values,” Orsini said.
Despite launching amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Bragoon has managed to attract customers to its online store and secure distribution deals with local retailers including Wait and See, Eral 55 , Tenhoa and Bici&Radici, a bicycle and a flower. store in the north of Milan.
It took Elena Beraldo a five-year trip to Hong Kong to come up with a plan for the launch of her Skin of Nature label.
Interested in sourcing eco-friendly synthetic fibers, she moved to Asia in 2017 where the manufacturing of these materials is more advanced and where she learned about the supply chain and barriers to the development of recycled fabrics.
“The brand is sort of a combination of my passion for fashion and for nature and sports activities, so there was no way I could create a line without it being sustainable,” Beraldo explained. “In 2017, sustainability wasn’t the pressing topic it is today, and it was hard for me to find courses to learn more about it, let alone companies that were already where I am. I expected them to be in terms of green credentials.”
In 2020, with a small design team based in Hong Kong, she launched the brand, tapping into the sportswear and yoga sector. The first collection of yoga sets made from regenerated polyester was named Aquatilis and was developed in partnership with marine biologist and underwater photographer Alexander Semenov. It served to introduce the brand to customers, Beraldo said, hence its simple designs and the use of Semenov’s images as prints, obtained through waterless techniques.
“My goal is to turn the brand into a lifestyle proposition and not necessarily tied to sportswear or the yoga lifestyle,” Beraldo said. Concrete example: the second collection presented this year is dedicated to windbreakers and waterproof outerwear, offering four models made from Fulgar’s Amni Soul Eco biodegradable nylon.
The brand first established itself via e-commerce and organized events in the Hong Kong region, where Beraldo also experimented with unusual distribution channels, including hotels, wellness centers and restaurants. “I think catching customers in unexpected places can trigger their curiosity to find out who we are,” she noted.
In addition to online distribution, Skin of Nature is sold in a few concept stores in Hong Kong and will soon be available in a five-star hotel spa, as well as at Coin Excelsior in Italy. The founder plans to increase wholesale and visibility through events in Italy and tie-ups with e-tailers.