Could you please describe your role?
I am the Global Business Director of LuxHub. This is the practice the Havas Group created to support marketing and communication activities for fashion and luxury brands. I am also the Director of the Italian branch, so I am responsible for business development, managing brand relationships, and overseeing the activities of all our clients.
What is your typical day at the office like?
My first task of the day is to accompany my son to school. After that, I have quite a long commute to the city, driving for more than one hour. I dedicate this time to the first calls of the day, to co-workers, clients, and partners. As soon as I get to Milan, I start meeting with clients or the rest of the team. I usually stay for just a couple of hours at the office. The longer part of the day is spent outside at our clients’ offices in order to ensure that we are on the same wavelength when it comes to their needs. I travel quite often throughout Italy and Europe to meet with clients and other members of the LuxHub team or to attend international conferences on digital innovation in fashion and luxury.
Could you tell us about the clients you handle at LuxHub and how you help them achieve their goals?
We mostly manage medium to big-sized companies, with many of them operating in the fashion or luxury space. However, we also have clients from other sectors, such as food, beverage, electronics and automotive companies, that want to use communication approaches typical of fashion brands in order to enhance their perception and positioning. We help them, first of all, to achieve a better customer perception by collecting data and insights through custom research. In many cases, our focus is to introduce new tools in their communication approach to their customers, while there are also cases where we re-evaluate a brand’s business model. The digital space is very important when it comes to creating communication strategies for luxury’s new target audience: millennials and consumers from emerging markets like China, the Middle East, and some niche cases in Africa.
What are the three biggest challenges that luxury brands face at the moment? Why?
The first one is understanding how to engage customers. They are incredibly different now compared to how they were just ten years ago. They are younger, they use communication codes in a way that’s very different to what luxury is used to, and they are not so keen to experiment. The second challenge is the need to find a balance between selling products and offering new experiences. In the past, luxury was completely product and retail-driven. While the product is still the heart of luxury, retail now has to be more experiential and more focused on communication. So companies need people from different backgrounds to drive these changes. And the last one is identifying new business models. Expanding product ranges and increasing prices is not sustainable in the long term. Luxury brands need to identify new ways to generate revenue that do not rely solely on selling products.
Ken Downing, the fashion director at Neiman Marcus, wrote a piece on Fashion We Like about the dangers of fashion fatigue. Do you feel that we are dealing with an oversaturated market where fashion is moving too fast and showing too much?
I agree with the stress and the incredible effort that’s required to be successful in this business. However, I don’t think there is too much information; it is just what the modern customers want. Thanks to the countless sources of information we have available now, it is natural for people to search continuously before making a decision. Planning a holiday, buying a car or a suit is now a process that involves visiting various relevant websites, reading reviews on specialised outlets and, in particular, listening to people’s feedback and experiences. This is the most important difference compared to the past: the fact that people that can influence other people plays a very important role in their decision journey. A big part of the stress the industry is facing today is related to this effort: understanding how to get involved in these conversations and creating the right content for the influencers they want to reach out to.
How is technology helping fashion with the less “sexy” aspects of it, such as logistics?
Technology is an enabler; it provides new services or improves existing ones. Fashion provides tremendous help in things like order fulfilment. Small brands and micro-retailers have benefited greatly from this, but the best has yet to come.
How do you see the evolution of brick and mortar retail?
I think that flagship stores will increasingly become places where you experience what a brand is all about and not just a place where you buy their products. This translates to brands developing new services and creating relevant content to entertain their visitors. The next generation of retail will be more about places that influence customers, showing them products that will be delivered when and where they want. Companies will not only sell goods, but also access to other parts of their brand by utilising spaces already available for other purposes in a more remunerative way, for example transforming their warehouses into a club.
Are there any retail concepts or initiatives that caught your attention recently?
There is an interesting concept store in Manhattan called Story. Everything changes every four to six weeks, from the assortment to layout and to window displays. Everything is built around a theme and a storyline, with a curated selection of products that reflects the story at its core, regardless of whether the theme is about a brand new book, a movie, or something else.
I interviewed Delfina Delettrez Fendi a while ago, and she said that ‘Made in Italy’ is “our history, our present and our future.” As someone based in Italy, what kind of challenges is ‘Made in Italy’ facing at the moment?
Creating a new generation of designers and excellent craftsmen who are able to turn their ideas into reality, is definitely a challenge. We need more effort as a country not only to sustain creativity, but also crafts that were abandoned in the past. Several important luxury groups like LVMH and Richemont, companies like Brunello Cucinelli, and organisations like Altagamma are investing in order to create schools that pass knowledge created over centuries to new generations. But this should also be sustained from a communication point of view. Ten years ago nobody wanted to work as a chef, the myth of the successful stockbroker in Manhattan was a lot more alluring. Today, however, and thanks to TV shows like MasterChef and people like Gordon Ramsay, this profession has exploded in popularity and people are queueing to attend courses for chefs and hotel managers. Perhaps something similar should be done to raise attention for other crafts.
Which are your most important markets at the moment and why?
For us, the key markets are Italy, France, Switzerland, and the United States. These are the countries where luxury comes from, at least at the moment.
What are your business priorities for the next six months?
My priority is to bring our programmatic advertisement solution to the most important luxury players in key countries. It is an important tool that brings the fashion and luxury into the digital age. It is a great way to attract customers and communicate with them using “mass customisation”. Thanks to its advanced data collection, it is possible to offer personalised information, using the right angle and at the right moment. It’s very different from what many brands do now, where it looks more like they are “stalking” clients instead of providing useful services.
When it comes to fashion and business news, what’s on your daily reading list? Any great business books you’d like to recommend?
I get information from several sources, quite often from social networks. As an aggregator of relevant sources coming from people with needs similar to mine, LinkedIn plays a central role in that. As for books, I recommend Emanuele Sacerdote’s Retailization.
What is the biggest setback you have faced in your career and how did you respond to it?
Setbacks are part of life. Fortunately, I haven’t faced any really big setbacks to to date, but in any case I think that setbacks are just part of the game. As Paul Newman said: “the harder the hill, the steeper the climb, the better the view from the finish line.”
What are your three biggest headaches at work right now?
The speed at which change happens. The need for high-level people with very different backgrounds and strong commitment. The lack of bravery that some clients show.
What’s the most solid, specific piece of advice you have for anyone wishing to work in luxury?
If you want to work in communication for luxury brands, work hard to have solid competencies in technology and customer insights. Keep your eyes open so that you can grasp how the world will change again. This industry has changed a lot and this is just the beginning.
Who would you like to recommend next for My Work?
Alessandro Sartori, the new Creative Director of Ermenegildo Zegna for his incredible work with this brand in the past and the challenges he will face at his new role. Also, Paolo Roviera, CEO of Pal Zileri, for the work he has done in relaunching the brand.