AS CEO OF LEATHER ACCESSORIES BRAND VALEXTRA, SARA FERRERO HAS BIG PLANS. A&E TALKS FUTURE SUCCESS AND HER VISION OF WORLD DOMINATION FOR THE NICHE ITALIAN FASHION HOUSE.
Valextra is an accessories house that has in fact been around for over 80 years. Founded in Milan in 1937, by Italian Giovanni Fontana, it specialises in niche leather products. Valextra became known for creating the first cabin bag. This was in 1954 when flying was a rare luxury so the bag was a truly innovative design. Throughout the years Valextra has strived to continue with the idea of innovative, unique bags, including the first 24-Hour attaché case, the first ever Grip coin purse for men and the first ever hobo bag for women.
Today Valextra has opened a new chapter but still intends to do much the same. With a mission to provide unique luxury bags. Valextra has perfected a clean architectural design that is unusual, yet recognisable at the same time. Since 2013, it has expanded from one flagship store in Milan to boutiques worldwide, as well as the recent launch of its global e-commerce platform. Who better to talk us through Valextra’s plans for the future than CEO Sara Ferrero? Sara joined Valextra in 2015, after working at Furla and Joseph following a career in investment banking and consultancy. She has ambitious plans for Valextra, and aims to take it from a niche brand to a global powerhouse.
What makes Valextra stand out from other brands?
The philosophy of Valextra has been around for 80 years, so it’s quite established. It has always been an architectural design. There’s something very embedded in the bags that is connected to Milanese culture. And that is something that defines the consistency and the way we have always approached our products as well as the way that we treat the store space. Today our brand is about the product, and the experience that you live and also the exclusivity. Our approach is what we call engineered building.
You cannot buy an object if you don’t like it, so fundamentality it has to be beautiful, because a bag especially is a little bit like your home when you go out! You put your most intimate things in your bag, items you wouldn’t leave alone in your home. So there is a relationship with the owner that is very intimate. This means that the inside of the bag is as important as the outside, but it is also something that will tell others about yourself. So we ask “how can we create a beautiful object that is also functional in today’s world?” We always try to come up with some element of innovation. We think about bags where you can pull off the pocket for example, something where you can add a strap and turn a bag into a rucksack, we look at the weight of the bag, all of these elements make us unique.
Tell us about the monogramming on the new collection.
Valextra is very graphic and modern. Typography is actually used in an interesting way that creates patterns but doesn’t necessarily scream your name. What is incredible about the monogramming is that we can do a collaboration directly with the customer who can choose their initials, decide their best colour, and the bag they like, and their personality can go into it. The smaller the initials for example, the more feminine, the larger the initials, the bolder the statement. For me this was how we moved from being a self-celebration of the brand to building a relationship and a celebration of the person that is wearing it.
What is an objective that you would still like to achieve at Valextra?
I have a lot to achieve! I think the achieving never ends. I have worked at many companies but the values that I recognise as a person come out in Valextra. It is a small brand so for me to be talking to you today and allowing people to discover the brand, is very important.
What are the challenges that you face today as a niche brand?
The market has changed a lot from when I started my career. People today are looking for beautiful special things that are different. They already possess a lot of beautiful bags and products, so they are looking for something unique, without compromising on quality. This is a lucky moment for Valextra because people are more open to accepting brands that are not necessarily the big mega-brands. Another positive element is that today the culture is of a young, digital mind. There are a lot of young incredible people that like the idea of a company that is smaller because they feel a part of something they can learn from. The last thing is that the customer is becoming more interested in quality.
Quality is becoming the factor that goes beyond the wow moment. What I think is very interesting for me is recently how we have a sudden reaction for our bags in our stores. The customers today know what they want.
What’s your vision and direction for the brand?
I think this is a brand that can go from a niche to a bigger brand. There is a lot to Valextra that goes beyond the product, so I think we have the possibility to bring substance, values and culture. I am seeing that a lot of people are wanting something true. This is an honest brand and that is something that people are looking for. This brand deserves a space in the bigger world.
What is your personal motto?
No is not an answer, you have to want it and you get it. You can have it all. Always be yourself and never give up.
What would be your message to young entrepreneurs?
There are no shortcuts. You have to be a listener. You can be incredibly talented but you have to work hard. Still always maintain a balance between work and life, because at the end of the day, if you don’t have that then you have nothing.
Valextra will be opening a store in Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue extension in early 2019.