Fashion + Food, the equation of success?
"Before, kids dreamed of becoming football champions, now they dream of being chefs," noted Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of Prada, who could have also brought up the time when stars were fashion designers and not chefs!
Capitalising on the public's enthusiasm for food and gastronomy, a synonym of creativity just like couture, but also of business, more and more fashion houses are succumbing to this sector, as illustrated by participants in the Milano Fashion Global Summit 2014, which took place on 11 November in Milan with the title: "Fashion is food, food is fashion".
Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana have already had their own restaurants and cafés for a while. But the approach, which are leading the Houses today, is different. It isn't just simply about offering a new service, it's about putting forth an even bigger image and creating a lifestyle around the brand.
"Fashion and luxury should be capable of activating the consumer's interest, including through collateral sectors, which are just as important. Like food, which is the expression of a new generation, which today aspires to well-being," explains the CEO of Prada, which recently acquired the historic Milan-based pastry shop Marchesi.
"It is not just about food, but also design with the dishware and even the interior design. It is an entire universe destined to accompany the consumer, who already has a grasp on fashion, towards a new world with an extended vision of luxury," he continued.
"We made the choice to not create a "Prada food" name but to use the already existing big name Marchesi, which should contribute to our brand's standing. It's also a very important way of communicating," emphasised Patrizio Bertelli, who announced his intention to open Marchesi pastry shops in Hong Kong and Dubaï, but also Milan, in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Via Montenapoleone, which also happens to be where the other legendary Milan-based pastry shop Cova, swiped up by LVMH last year, is located…
With its Michelin-star restaurant (2013), Trussardi made a different choice, not without having heavily invested in this project. "We wanted to open a space that, of course, identifies with the brand, but first and foremost aimed at quality. This wasn't always easy but today our restaurant is renowned, while food attracts even more customers compared to fashion because it has a larger audience," summed up Tomaso Trussardi, the Bergamo-based group's young CEO.
Recreating his project abroad is more difficult "because you have to maintain the same level of quality." But the brand intends to develop its other restaurant concept, Café Trussardi, internationally, which will be presented in Germany in January at the Imm Cologne trade fair, and is in negotiations to open in Dubai.
Naples-based luxury tailor Kiton is taking the same approach, getting ready to also enter the gastronomy sector with the opening of a rigidly Neapolitan-based cuisine restaurant at its head office in Milan, the former building of Gianfranco Ferré of Via Pontaccio. A first step before expanding abroad with this new "store-restaurant" concept, to conquer an international clientele."
Other brands, like Salvatore Ferragamo, have chosen to focus on their core activity and, for the time being, are not considering branching out in this sector. Even if, as Michele Norsa, the brand's CEO, admits that, "there has always been an identification between luxury and fashion with Italian food and wine, especially in the Asian markets. It is a question of a synergy that can still be exploited."
"The food and restaurant industry today has characteristics that make it close to a luxury good, such as exclusivity, quality and service. But its development is still at the embryonic stage, with very few companies positioned in the premium market. It is a market under construction, which will need to lean on the same levers of growth as fashion, such as distribution, an international presence and the perception of quality," concluded Diego Selva of de Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
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