LORO PIANA CEO FABIO D’ANGELANTONIO TAKES US ON A SENSORY EXPERIENCE OF THE BRAND AS HE EXPLAINS WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO TOUCH THE PRODUCTS.
Last month Loro Piana made a spectacular debut into the UAE with its Gift of Kings installation. The presentation was designed to send customers on a sensory experience of the world’s finest wool; the same wool that is used to create Loro Piana’s luxury products. Once the installation was over, focus shifted to the brand’s first store in the region, which opened inside the Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue extension.
Loro Piana is known for its absolute luxury, using the finest materials to create pieces for the elite customer. Part of the project was to allow new customers to touch and feel the wool used in creating the products and subsequently explain the story and the heritage of the brand.
These were two of the talking points when we sat down for an in-depth chat with CEO Fabio D’Angelantonio. With a background in sales and marketing, Roman born D’Angelantonio was appointed CEO of Loro Piana in 2016, after being nominated by the LVMH group (who had recently acquired the brand). D’Angelantonio openly admits to being a dedicated customer of Loro Piana well before taking on the role so he has a unique take on the brand and its future. Here we talk to him about the decision to open a store in Dubai and why we can expect to see a lot more of Loro Piana in the coming years.
Why did you wait until now to debut in the Middle East?
There are a lot of reasons. One is that we were waiting to be prepared to do it in the right way. It’s a new market so we wanted to be right in terms of location and to ensure it was somewhere that was right for the brand. We also had to make sure as a company we were well equipped to manage it properly. So it took some time for us to find the space but we are very happy about it. We also dedicated a lot of time to hiring the right team for the brand. We are very different from other brands in a normal luxury environment, and I think for us it’s very important for us to have the right ambassadors in our store.
What sets you apart from other brands?
First of all the kind of product we offer. We are proud to say that we offer a beautiful product that is exquisite and is done with the rarest natural fibre in the world. And I think that this makes our products special. I also think that our customer is quite different from others. Sometimes they overlap with other brands but I think that our customer is quite special. The more we talk with them we discover that they are seekers of quality and they really go searching for things and the story behind the products. They are very cosmopolitan, very demanding and very intelligent.
What can you tell us about the recent Gift of Kings event in Dubai?
We wanted to tell the story of our natural fibres from a different angle. We wanted it to be special and for people to go home having touched something they would not expect to touch. Touch is a much more long-lasting feeling than seeing and we wanted people to discover our product and our heritage. The hope is that based on that experience, people will want to pass by our store and find out what it’s all about.
And what makes your stores unique?
Sometimes our stores are defined as an oasis of calm and education. Our customers come to our stores and they often stay for a long time. I think we are the only business in the world where if I add an armchair, I add business for the company! Because they love to come and stay for a long time. There is a real sense of politeness and service that we are trying to represent.
To what extent is the retail experience still important?
Retail is very important. Customers are searching for products and in our case, touching it makes all the difference. When you see a customer come into a store, if he is a real Loro Piana customer you will see him touching everything. You need to have this sensual experience. I personally believe that the service and experience you offer is important. On the other hand I don’t think you need to open stores for the sake of opening. You have to open in places where you have either the right concentration of your customer, or somewhere where the customer will be surprised.
When it comes to luxury brands to what extent do you think storytelling is still relevant?
The reason the entire world of luxury is going in the direction it is, is because there are brands that are an alternative to the mainstream and I think we are one of them. Customers are very interested in understanding the product and the values they are buying in to and what is behind the products in terms of material, authenticity and the story the product can tell. I think when these kinds of customers learn about us, they develop a special relationship with the brand and products and it can sometimes be close to an addiction! Our customers love to touch and that is what we are all about. If you asked a Loro Piana customer if they would prefer to touch without seeing or see without touching, they would always prefer to touch. To have this sensory feeling and the story to explain why this product is so special is really rare and for us this is really our answer when it comes to storytelling. You need time to develop a good product that is the best quality and you need time to develop a real story.
Loro Piana targets men and women, tell us about the balance between the offering for the two.
I think today’s offering is very balanced. I think it applies to all different categories. I would say probably the women’s business is a little more driven by each collection and season, while the men’s business has a more solid mass of products that we preserve year after year. I think we are one of the few luxury cashmere brands that has mostly ready-to-wear, and we offer somewhere where men and women can shop together and be happy in the environment. We often have couples that come to our shop and they both find their happiness in each department.
To what extent do you think fashion shows are relevant today and why has Loro Piana never showed in a runway format?
We are happy to talk about style but I don’t think we belong to a fashion category. We don’t feel the obsession of the fashion cycle. When you buy something from Loro Piana you buy something that is long-lasting and designed and developed to gratify your experience for a lot more than one year. So when we think about the new collection, we certainly look to develop something new, but with the idea that the pieces that you buy today, can be worn with the other pieces you already have. It is an idea of dynamic but long-lasting elements that are timeless. I think the goal of the runway is essentially to present a new collection, but also at the same time to make sure that the past collection becomes old forever, which is not at all the goal of Loro Piana. We want to be something different – of course we do ready-to-wear but we have very different beliefs and goals in mind. Our deeper goal is being able to ensure that we find the most unique natural fibres and preserve this whatever the cost or difficulty. And I think if you do this with integrity, the product will find its customer.
What has been achieved since you joined Loro Piana and what is an objective you still aim to achieve?
I arrived in a very delicate moment. Five years ago the family that ran the company sold the majority to LVMH group. Then after that there was a moment of limbo in which the integration happened. Six months after the closing of the deal one of the two brothers of the family passed away, so there was a big emotional transition.
I think my biggest achievement from my perspective has been really regaining the energy, ambition and talent in the company and looking to the future with the right energy. I think it is also something that’s easier when you are being supported by a bigger platform such as LVMH.
Looking at the future there are a couple of areas in which we are working really hard. We have had fantastic success in the last two years with shoes, and that is a big area for us, as well as making sure that leather goods become an important part of our business. We are working very hard to develop a new offering of fibres such as silk, linen and cotton. Which most people don’t know us for. So we want to focus on that.
What are you doing to ensure the sustainability of your products?
My take on sustainability is that we aren’t just sustainable now that it is in fashion to be. This company is sustainable by definition and it’s in our roots. One thing we have to think about at Loro Piana is the sustainability of the offers we put to our breeders, so we have to ensure their sons and sons of sons will sustain the wool after many years because this is not a quick process. We don’t just buy any wool or cashmere it is always the best. When we buy it we buy a lot and we have to make sure we create the right conditions to go back and buy it again next year. So one of our goals is paying the right price to communities in order to make future generations become part of the same business. We are working with the children of the people that harvested our wool twenty years ago. We have to make it interesting for the next generation and for us this is sustainable because we don’t think only of the present generation of customers but we want to ensure that the next generation can experience the same wool as the customers today.
This applies to our relationship, to nature, animals and our very respectful relationship with the communities that we work with. We ensure a complete respect to nature and the people that supply us with the wool. Whatever the price we pay, if we are always going for the best, there will be a customer that recognises what we do and that it really is the best.
What challenges do you face now in the industry?
I think we are very peculiar as a brand. We have a positive outlook on how we are developing the brand. If you look at ten years from now, as a brand that sells products to fit comfortably that are also warm, then potentially global warming could one day be a challenge for us, but it is also true that for many areas of the world where it is warm you use air conditioning. So probably one of my biggest challenges when I joined the brand was looking at these aspects and how to resolve these problems.
A potential concern is that we have a lot of loyal customers that in many areas of the world are not young. But then again we have an entire new generation of customers so that makes it not so much an issue.
We are proving that our brand is extremely relevant in a world where consumption is faster and more superficial than ever. Our consumer still has a desire for quality and they a ensuring this.
What is your professional motto?
Dreams and teams.
How do you interpret luxury?
I think luxury is a very deep emotional experience. It can be related to a product or not. The more knowhow and culture you have the more you will appreciate this experience.
What book are you currently reading?
It’s a book by an Italian writer about the relevance of good education and being polite in a world that apparently everyday gives less relevance to politeness.
Where do you see Loro Piana in five years’ time?
In terms of positioning I see Loro Piana exactly as it is today. Probably if we have succeeded the brand will be equally loved and even more desired. I hope that we have will be able to offer the brand through more categories than today, in order to be able to create a real lifestyle universe.
First of all the entire universe of home interiors. I think we have incredible beautiful fabrics for interiors that can allow us to become even more of a player in the world of home living. We have the potential to build a lifestyle around the brand, and I think there are a group of customers that will buy into this lifestyle.
How would you describe Loro Piana in one word?
“Touch” with a capital T.