Could you please describe your role in a nutshell?
I am in charge of international relations and expanding business opportunities in new markets. At the moment I am focusing on Asian-Pacific countries (excluding Japan—currently our top market, in which we entered more than ten years ago). I am also in charge of global communications and PR activities coordinating our Milan, New York and Tokyo offices.
What's your typical day at the office like?
I wake up early and manage my food website Eatwithmarco (I am a trained chef and a foodie). Then I try to go to the office early, as the earlier I go the better I feel because I am more productive before lunch. I dedicate my mornings to the Asian markets—due to the time-zone differences I focus on calls and conversations with our contacts and partners there. Then we have our lunch ritual with my colleagues. We are fortunate enough to have a kitchen in our showroom, so we can cook or prepare something together. I know this is very Italian, but the hours spent hanging out with colleagues is important: we share valuable work information and this is something that de-stresses us as well. I then prepare for any possible meetings in the second half of the afternoon. I never go home if I don't go to the gym, even for a short run.
What kinds of tools, applications, or services make your everyday business life easier?Though I love technology, I realise that the traditional way of communication is still better: the good-old phone call. We rely too much on emails and sometimes our communication turns into impersonal messages typed on a screen. Human contact is still vital; it's from a handshake to a few words exchanged in person that the biggest opportunities develop. The real tool I use is Facebook, which has become my new ‘informal’ and friendly database of contacts.
When it comes to fashion and business news, what's on your daily reading list?
The first thing I read is Ansa, the Italian press agency. I stopped following commentary pieces from journalists a while ago, as I just want the facts and to form my own opinion about the news. Then I focus on our industry's news so I check WWD, Italian MFF and our international press clippings.
What's the philosophy behind Slowear?
In two words: durable fashion. It's all about keeping something in your wardrobe for long periods, a philoshophy we've been proposing since 1951. We named it Slowear in 2003 to make it easier to understand. Our idea is to offer a garment that has been designed, engineered and made to survive trends—exactly the opposite of what fast fashion does. In order to produce a garment that lives longer, we've made specialisation our credo, and under the Slowear umbrella we own and control four Italian brands with a long tradition and heritage. Each company is specialised in a specific category of product: Incotex is a trouser brand since 1951, Glanshirt is a shirting brand since 1960, Montedoro is specialised in outerwear and jackets since 1958, and Zanone is a knitwear specialist which was founded in 1984. At this point, I'd like to quote Nick Compton, the editor of our first book Slowear, taking the time to do it right. In his ten-point feature regarding what constitutes a Slow company, his number one point was: “Stick to what you are good at, and be very good at it”. This is why we consider specialisation an honest approach to what the markets need.
What is the profile of the Slowear customer? What makes him tick?
Our target is the sophisticated man who, generally speaking, does not like to dress like the others. He prefers to be stylish rather than fashionable, and he'd rather buy less items of higher quality than more items of cheap quality and at low prices. He is an expert, a connoisseur, and he always pays attention to the details—something at which we excel. After all, style is all about the details.
As the Business Development Director at Slowear, which are the most important markets for you at the moment? Why?
Our first market is Japan, the second is Italy. Two countries apparently with not a lot in common, but when it comes to clothing, Japanese and Italian men think alike: they are both looking for the most up-to-date item, they pay attention to details, and they appreciate all things well-made rather than things well-branded.
Since you are also the Director of Communications, which channels do you find most effective and efficient when it comes to distributing your company's brand messages?
Well, Slowear is a complex concept. It is a philosophy and not a single brand, because our brands are the four specialist companies that we own. Therefore, it is vital to us to tell our story. And who can tell your story better than your own customers? They are our brand ambassadors because they try the items, they feel good in them and they fall in love with our philosophy. To put it simply: they become loyal. So the most effective channel is CRM and taking care of our customers, making our collections for them, anticipating their needs and expectations. One more crucial thing is offering them a positive experience with our products as well as within our stores (pre-post sales policies are all centred around our customers). Another important channel for us is social networks. I know I am not saying anything new, but for brands like ours social networking is a strong tool, because it gives us the opportunity to tell stories on a regular basis. A third aspect is media relations; we have very strong ties with media outlets worldwide, and journalists like our concept and our philosophy and think that this is an innovative approach (although it's something we have been doing for six decades now), so they constantly give us coverage.
How did you come up with the idea of the Slowear Journal? Is storytelling important to your brand and has the use of content helped you achieve your business goals?
I personally inherited the Journal because it was initiated by the owners of the company, Roberto Compagno and his brother, Marzio. The only thing me and my team did was to build an editorial team, chase for correspondents from the main international cities; and today the Journal is a real thing: we have an editor-in-chief and a team of seven people plus correspondents. As I said before, storytelling is vital for Slowear and its family of brands; we try to tell amazing stories and the Journal is a useful medium. However, its objective is not to promote our brands or products, but to share a lifestyle, a slow way of living, by giving suggestions on food, travel, green life, technology, and so on. Essentially, if you follow one of the Slowear brands you are most probably already embracing the Slow philosophy in your life as well.
What is more challenging for you: coming up with effective communication plans or growing Slowear's sales? Is it harder reaching out to press and consumers or contacting potential business partners?
The complexity of our concept is quickly gone when we are given the opportunity to talk about it. Once we do that, doors open and remain open to us. I think there is not a big difference between media contacts and potential business partners; it's all about communicating to someone the concept of a quality project like Slowear.
What is the biggest setback you have faced in your career and how did you respond to it?
I have been through an acquisition while being a manager. Basically, I changed company without changing desk and it was quite hard; sometimes going through immediate changes is really something you are not ready to deal with. But this experience helped me become more flexible and instead of complaining I welcomed the new challenge as a growth opportunity. And it actually was.
What lessons did you learn that have helped you reach where you are today?
I always remember one thing my boss said to me once when he asked about the progress of a project, to which I responded: 'I hope everything is going in the right direction'. He then said: “You are a manager, you can't just 'hope'. A manager should know where we are heading. Hope is for something that's out of your control.” This comment was an epiphany to me, as I realised he was right. Since then I still 'hope' but I do anything possible to ensure that I know everything that is happening. It works.
We interviewed Delfina Delettrez a while ago and she said that 'Made in Italy' is “our history, our present, and our future”. What kind of challenges is 'Made in Italy' facing at the moment?
The challenges are connected to the fact that today nobody is willing to be an artisan anymore, they all want to be designers or stylists. The real challenge is teaching younger generations that 'Made in Italy' is not only about designing, but about creating and handcrafting. If we lose that, there won't be any 'Made in Italy' left—only a tag saying 'designed in Italy and assembled somewhere else'. However, I am not so pessimistic about this situation, as travelling around has helped me realise that 'Made in Italy' is still important. While our knowhow is something that other countries will sooner or later replicate, there is one specific thing that is purely Italian and impossible to copy: our lifestyle. It is within our DNA, it's the way we live, enjoy life; it’s how we dress, the creative ways in which we approach everyday life (just imagine how simple it is to make pizza, yet how creative it can get!). So apart from 'Made in Italy', I think it's high time we registered a term like 'Lifestyled in Italy'.