Franco Loro Piana Discusses His Hybrid Men’s Fashion Brand SEASE 

Lindsay Judge   |   14-06-2024

After growing up in the Loro Piana family, Franco Loro Piana saw his father and uncle build a global company that helped shape the concept of quiet luxury as we know it today.

In 2013, however, the family business was sold to LVMH for a sum of two billion Euros. This left Franco, alongside his brother Giacomo, at a crossroads. They had gained exponential knowledge of the industry, craftsmanship, and creating exceptional products while working in the family business, but the challenge now was what to do next. The young entrepreneurs were keen to embark on a project that would combine their expertise with their passion for sports and an active lifestyle, and they soon created SEASE, a mens lifestyle brand that combines luxury and performance. 

SEAE was launched in 2016 through a series of lifestyle experiences and pop-up stores. Its concept is unique and is targeted towards a man who loves an outdoorsy lifestyle, but also appreciates quality and luxury. This May SEASE opened its first store in the Middle East in Dubai Malls Fashion Avenue. Partnering with Khalifa Almarri, Managing Director of Almarri Investments the Loro Piana brothers hope to further expand the brands global presence and reach a new segment.

The new store spans 1400 sqft and embodies the minimal and innovative aesthetic envisioned by its founders, providing a perfect backdrop for SEASE’s high-performance, functional urban wear. The interiors are inspired by yachting and automotive design, where innovative materials like carbon fibre, teak wood, and sailing ropes create a contemporary yet welcoming atmosphere.

On a recent visit to Dubai to open the store, we caught up with Franco Loro Piana to find out more about this exciting new chapter of the business. 

Tell us a little about the brand, how it came to life and the vision?

After we sold the family business, I wanted to create a brand that was fitting with my own lifestyle. I knew I had some creativity to express and I was very passionate about sailing, skiing and surfing, so I started to think about how precious your free time is when you are doing these things and how you need to have an occasion to escape your ordinary life and reconnect with nature. This, in my opinion, is true luxury. Having time to enjoy the things you love. I believe there is a big reframing happening in the world where people really want to take the time to rebalance and I wanted to create a brand that would talk about passion, outdoor spirits, reconnecting with nature and so on. 

Around 15 or 20 years ago, when I was living in New York, I would go to Montag on the weekends, and I would wrap up my bag with everything I needed – wetsuit, hoody, book, music – and I had this idea of creating a brand that was a kit for your passion – this eventually turned into a contemporary wardrobe for a man who wants to escape, whos on the go, whos travelling. Its a combination of essential pieces that you must have in the wild, but combined with the codes of tradition, which is very linked to my family heritage and my DNA. So we are combining a tailoring, craftsmanship experience with a very contemporary product. 

I would define SEASE as tailoring elegance combined with a highly competent design and performance. We bridge the gap between high-end raw materials and quality with a sense of performance, and its quite unique. It creates a hybrid wardrobe for a guy who can go skiing with a high-performance cashmere jacket and then wear it every day in the city – he is never formal, always casual but sophisticated. Obviously, its not for everyone because not everyone likes to be functional and high-performance, but the wardrobe of a man is evolving towards that direction. There is a feeling that activewear brands dont have style and luxury brands dont have performance, and thats why were here. 

Men’s fashion has changed a lot and there seems to be a shift towards more casual and functional pieces  – what can you tell us about that?

Yes – there is definitely a shift towards pieces that are easier to wear, easier to travel in and I think thats where its heading. 

Tell us about the materials you are using.

Our strength is to use natural fibres and materials and around 80 per cent of our wardrobe is made from wool. Wool is the most incredible fibre that can range from thin to super thin – it can be the most precious or the most functional natural fibre. We also use a lot of linen hemp and cashmere, and we try to use these materials in a different way, whether its the design of the garments or the performance that we can attach to them. Were very happy with this approach, especially with the identity of the brand which is not easy to build from scratch. 

Tell us about the rollout of the brand. 

I started the concept in Milan with a pilot store because I wanted to showcase an overall lifestyle. We started with a concept store because this idea of a kit was always quite strong in our vision and now, obviously, the collection has become bigger, but to begin with, we had this concept with a music loft on the first floor where you could buy vinyl and have drinks and chill. Downstairs was the SEASE collection, and there were also products from other brands that are aligned with our DNA. Things like gadgets that our consumers may not be aware of. So we started with this concept store, and then we opened stores in resort locations because we were pitching this escape to nature – whether its ocean or mountains – we opened stores in St Moritz and Sardinia to really express our brand DNA. 

I think we are a resort spirit brand. We enter our clients mind when he is coming up to having free time, and for me, the most important thing was to create a brand thats different, and its very difficult to do today when everything is already out there at any level of price and quality. So, to me, the only way was to create a product that can carry emotion through life. SEASE really needs to remain a really authentic brand with its own soul, that is used for authentic experiences for an escape, for exploring. These are all emotional experiences and the garments will be a loyal friend, accompanying you on these life moments. I hope they become salty and dusty and that these products stay in the wardrobe of a man for a long time because the emotional attachment is so great. 

The materials you use need to be versatile and long-lasting. What were the challenges related to this?

The biggest challenge is that if you use a natural fibre, a very precious raw material, on the one hand, you have a price constraint and then you have an outdoor spirit, you are competing with products that are made in China or Taiwan and are often cheaper. Obviously, we are already targeting a niche, and secondly, we are working with fabrics like wool or linen, which do have some limits in terms of durability or stretchability compared to synthetic fibres, but with wool, for example, its features are actually incredibly unique in terms of their thermal regulation, so if you get wet you get warm, they dont smell, there are so many great features of natural fibres, but for sure, you cannot reach a certain level of performance, but thats also not our goal. If we design a ski jacket in wool for example, for sure its high performance, but you dont need to climb K2 wearing it. We are not a sports brand, we are a lifestyle brand and performance comes through in everyday wear. 

Where did the name SEASE come from? 

Because of this starting vision of sailing and passion and releasing pressure and stress from the city and dynamic life, we started with ease. When you sail, you ease the sail and you are releasing pressure. And then we added S to add the sea angle and how we are an ambassador of nature and the word also looked good aesthetically. 

Tell us about the brand in the Middle East and why do you think men here will enjoy it.

We had a sense of testing the brand for Middle Eastern clients in Courchevel because we had a store there. Men from the Middle East really like to ski and be in the mountains, and they like quality in general. So they discovered SEASE in that way, and we had a positive feeling. Im quite surprised, positive and happy about the opportunity to be here, and I will always thank my partner Khalifa Almarri,  because he achieved the impossible to find a shop space in Dubai Mall. Its the Champions League of the luxury market, and so I feel very honoured and thrilled to be here. At the same time, I feel the need to deliver. This really is the turning point for my company, and if we do this right, I think we will have something very different and special, and I hope this is the first one of a long series of stores in the GCC area. 

Being in Dubai Mall allows us to reach locals, ex-pats and tourists, so its a great opportunity, and I really think Middle Eastern clients are young, they have purchasing power, they are very connected with whats happening in the world, and they appreciate things that are well done, of high quality and unique. Once they like something they become very passionate about it and loyal to it and become real fans of a brand, so I really see the need to fulfil their needs and grow the company in this market. 

Coming from a family company, what pressures did you feel when starting a new brand, and was there an expectation you felt you needed to live up to? 

Yes, for sure there were challenges and pressures, but lets say its been done with a very instinctive passion – I didnt talk or think about it too much in that way. After working a lot in the family company, I was 30 years old on my own, and I had this blank canvas in front of me. In the end, I did it because I was passionate about the product, and in my previous experience, I didnt work on the product, I was more focused on other departments within the company, so it was a passion that I had inside and wanted to explore further. For sure it is easy to fail when you embark on a new project after a successful project, but I really didnt talk about what could go wrong. That being said, I totally underestimated the amount of complexity of starting a new brand, and to be exposed again, the tough challenge was to reframe myself from an incredible organisation and a brand with no compromise. We always did the best we could in everything we did, and this is why it became so successful. Then you start from scratch, and if you have this ambition, you dont have the same machine under you, and this creates a level of complexity which can be difficult to manage. But we have now been doing this for seven years, and we have overcome all of these challenges. Its time to really bring the brand out there in the market, and Im thrilled to have this opportunity in the Middle East. 

What does luxury mean to you today?

For us, as the Loro Piana family, to talk about quiet luxury is like nothing new. For me, true luxury is to have the freedom to live your life in the way you want. Always being connected to something that has a true value and is authentic. The concept of luxury is really switching to being more about having time to dedicate yourself to what you like to do.

In fashion, luxury is something that has a lot of content behind it. By content, I mean craftsmanship, technology, or something that is made to be the best in its category and authentic. It is about understanding certain values that can be transferred into a product or experience that will touch someones emotions. This is true luxury.