Marco Marchi of Eccellenze Italiane wants to give new direction to Blumarine
At the end of 2019, Marco Marchi, the CEO of Liu Jo, acquired Blufin, a company that owns among others Italian high-end label Blumarine. Marchi has incorporated the latter, together with Liu Jo, into the Eccellenze Italiane holding company, expressly set up to spawn a new, Italy-based fashion group. Marchi has talked to FashionNetwork.com about his relaunch plans for Blumarine, the label that will open the Milan Fashion Week on September 23, under the aegis of Creative Director Nicola Brognano.
FashionNetwork.com: You bought Blumarine for an undisclosed sum at the end of 2019, just before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Bad timing?
Marco Marchi: I’ve been asking myself the same question for two months! I wasn’t very lucky, although, paradoxically, the pandemic has wiped the slate clean for all and sundry. Blumarine has a history of success and I’m sure that, in the current market overhaul, it will be able to find its niche. Post-crisis periods have always favoured labels whose style is a little more expansive, to the detriment of more minimalistic labels.
FNW: How was the company doing when you bought it? Its 2019 revenue is estimated in the region of €23 million.
MM: It was undoubtedly struggling, posting negative EBITDA and financial losses. The last 15 years in particular have been a prolonged torment. It was necessary to invest to enable the company to weather the crisis caused by the pandemic. Besides the [undisclosed] sum I spent for the acquisition, I recapitalised the company to the tune of several tens of millions of euro, to reach critical mass and start afresh. And I appointed a new CEO.
FNW: What other measures did you take?
MM: I was initially planning a number of redundancies. But after Covid-19 struck, I changed my plans. I took advantage of government aid to put workers on furlough and decided not to go ahead with job cuts. I want to offer employees the opportunity to switch to other roles instead, provided they accept new conditions. Blufin currently has nearly 90 employees, and some changes are necessary in the way it operates, which can sometimes appear anachronistic.
FNW: Have you also made changes to the distribution strategy?
MM: Yes, there too we adopted an entirely new approach. We are now focusing on the wholesale channel, putting the Riccardo Grassi showroom in charge of commercial operations, with the goal of establishing partnerships with top stores worldwide.
FNW: And what about [Blumarine’s] monobrand stores? Lately, Blufin was operating a network of some 30 shops.
MM: With the exception of the Blumarine store in Rome and a few boutiques in Asia - in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan - the label's main stores have been closed down in the last few years. We also shut the Milan flagship store, located in Via della Spiga, because we think the style of [the latter] as a commercial artery has changed.
FNW: Will you preserve the label’s highly feminine, slightly opulent style?
MM: Yes, we will maintain [Blumarine’s] lavish look. Blumarine has a very specific DNA, its femininity flirts with seduction without veering into vulgarity, emphasising a Mediterranean cultural outlook and aesthetic. The label has extraordinary potential, especially in terms of women's ready-to-wear. It can make its mark as a label that knows how to dress women in gratifying fashion. I think [Blumarine] can play a strong hand in the apparel segment, one where there is room to expand and much to do, rather than in accessories.
FNW: What will Blumarine's positioning be?
MM: I wanted to give a new direction to Blumarine. With our new creative director, Nicola Brognano, who’s 29, we’re definitely looking to rejuvenate the label, while highlighting the quality of garments 100% made in Italy. Blumarine will continue to feature high-end products, at a price that is consistent and in line with the expectations of today's consumers. We have therefore lowered [Blumarine’s] prices, positioning it in the affordable luxury segment.
FNW: Besides a strong brand personality, what other assets does Blumarine have?
MM: What surprised me the most was Blumarine’s worldwide following, which the label has managed to retain despite declining in the last 15 years. It is well-known internationally, notably in Asia and Russia. In the current environment, if a fashion company has clear ideas and enough financial resources, it will attract much more market attention than an emerging name. Blumarine has a very clear aesthetic and is virtually alone in its segment, its feminine style something that is hard to find.
FNW: What plans do you have for the other labels owned by Blufin?
MM: Anna Molinari and Blugirl are still active, we have plans for relaunching them. Instead, we put a stop to Be Blumarine, a recently introduced line that in our opinion doesn't have a place in the market.
FNW: Both Liu Jo and Blumarine are based in Carpi, in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Will you bring them together under one roof?
MM: We won’t. The two companies will stay separate, with two different distribution facilities, each with its own dedicated staff. You cannot mix the running of a luxury label and its ateliers with something else.
FNW: Yet, there could be synergies between the two entities.
MM: The only possible synergy within the group relates to the financial side of the business.
FNW: What’s on the horizon for Eccellenze Italiane ?
MM: The goal is to acquire other labels. I want to build up a fashion organisation through which we can tap the appropriate financial and structural synergies, making it a hub for valuable companies. Together, we can do a lot for Italian fashion companies, for example give them visibility, a better management structure and easier access to credit.
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