Could you please describe your current role?
As Simeone Napoli is now entering the market, my goals are to build brand awareness by reaching out to international press and collaborating with the best wholesale retailers globally. Introducing the brand assets and mission to international media as well as developing a sales network that's right for our brand are the biggest, yet exciting, challenges.
Which are the most important markets for you at the moment?
Simeone, despite its Neapolitan origin, is not currently offering classic tailoring, but a collection with a contemporary luxury approach. The FW17 collection presented recently was our very first; Europe, Middle East, and Asia responded to it in a very positive way. North America is also a very important market for us, and at the moment we are working on our expansion strategy there through a base in New York.
You worked for brands such as Staff International, Giorgio Armani, and Caruso. What is the most useful thing you learned there?
All three companies were a great school for me. Armani offered me the chance to do business with all the major international franchise companies, as well as creating a network of freestanding stores and shop-in-shops worldwide. Staff International is a company that develops brands through licensing agreements (Dsquared2, Margiela, Roberto Cavalli, and so on). I was in charge of their business development as well as maintaining the relationship with the brand-owner companies. I also worked together with Yoox – Net a Porter to develop their online platforms and the launch of the brands' exclusive stores (such as Margiela.com), which was a tremendous experience. As for Caruso, the fact that it is a manufacturing company really helped me develop my technical skills. During my four years there I was also involved deeply in establishing Caruso as a brand in a phase where they had moved from being a great suits/jackets manufacturer to a total look menswear brand, accompanied by the opening of their mono-brand stores in Milan and New York.
Which are your three biggest headaches at work right now?
The general worldwide economic and political situation, which is affecting the business at all levels. Safeguarding the culture of fine menswear and the real advantages of wearing a high-quality garment in a world where people tend just to be attracted to “style.” The “see-now, buy-now” business trend (I'm not really a fan) and the massive use of social media channels.
Ken Downing wrote a piece on Fashion We Like about the dangers of fashion fatigue. Do you feel that we are dealing with an oversaturated market?
I agree that fashion is moving too fast and showing too much. Menswear is starting to behave in that way as well, and not only the so-called “designer labels”. The whole system is now rolling at a much higher speed, which I don't feel too comfortable with. Menswear should be made of great solid 'blocks' surrounded by more 'flash' components.
Are there any retail concepts or initiatives that caught your attention recently?
Online commerce seems to be better at attracting the consumers’ attention with their clever use of fashion editorials and storytelling on social media. FarFetch is a very interesting platform and I keep a close look at how they evolve. As for bricks and mortar stores, I love the Japanese stores for their brand selection and overall shopping experience, as well as some Scandinavian specialty stores.
Delfina Delettrez Fendi said a while ago that 'Made in Italy' is “our history, our present, and our future.” As someone based there, what kind of challenges is 'Made in Italy' facing at the moment?
I would say there's one big challenge, which is the cost of manufacturing. While 'Made in Italy' is an exclusive label itself (the creative idea as well as the make), the real challenge is to compete with other markets where the cost of labour is much lower. Unfortunately, there are no solutions at the moment, while some established brands have come up with their own fixes such as “Made in Prada” and “Made in Moncler” — although consumers are getting increasingly aware of this.
How do you see the market of menswear evolving?
While the demand for suits will always remain strong, I feel that the consumers looking for one will tend to have it tailor-made, even though there are already very different options price-wise out there. 'Upper casual' is indeed growing, as well as sport/streetwear and both are available in a variety of price ranges.
What is your view on the new take on suits shown at Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten with boxy silhouettes and looser lines?
I worked with Demna Gvasalia when we were both at Martin Margiela. I can vouch for his talent and vision and am pleased to see his success now. Balenciaga is one of the most interesting brands at the moment. Of course, French designer labels have to play with a strong image, but I think Balenciaga is just doing it right.
What is the most solid, specific piece of advice you have for anyone wishing to work in fashion?
Fashion today is very different than it was twenty, ten or even five years ago. It's moving at a different speed and talking to a much wider audience. For example, channels like Instagram have huge influence and can reach millions of users instantly. Brands are competing in a crowded arena and need to be very smart and careful when spending their marketing budgets in order to make the most impact.
Could you please tell us about you business priorities in the next six months? What are your plans?
Setting our base in New York in order to start developing the North America market and visit Japan and other Asian countries. Also, working on brand events and trunk shows in major European cities. We are planning a few pop-up stores from September and onwards, but it's too early to say where and when exactly.
What kind of opportunities do you see for Simeone Napoli at the moment? Is there a specific market segment that you are targeting and you see a gap?
The Naples origin is very appealing and has a certain allure when it comes to menswear. This gives us a great opportunity to show that Neapolitans can produce garments of very high quality that are not necessarily within the classic tailoring space (where Cesare Attolini and Kiton are the best in this world). Mr. Porter and Barneys New York described our very first collection as “wearable fashion,” which is great feedback and spot on with what we want to be consistent about. Keeping our collections wearable while adding some smart fashion components and presenting them with an easy and sophisticated styling approach is important. At the same time, we will maintain a balance between sartorial excellence and functionality for every garment that's part of the collection.
Who would you like to recommend next for My Work?
Mark Cho, co-founder of The Armoury and co-owner of Drake's.