There are stories that unfold in a linear way, that start from specific points and through
specific stages, trace a path whose final outcome is quite predictable or, at least, consequential.
This is not the specific case of Etro, and the Luxury Society at the Turin Campus had the pleasure to discover the journey of this brand through the voice of its CEO, Francesco Freschi.
The history of Etro is the history of a voyage which began in 1968, when the company was founded by Gerolamo “Gimmo” Etro. At the beginning Etro was a textile design company but later on it started to create its first handbags, sgnature by the iconic paisley pattern under Gimmo’s instructions. This motif was both, back then and today, characteristic of India and is related to the tree of life.
Mr. Freschi told us that the brand’s heart can be described with five keywords: journey, play, nature, colour and art. Art for th e originality of the patterns used which are still painted by hand and art as itsimply was the passion of Gimmo. This is why the family decided that the flagship store in London should be the old house of a family involved in the antique trade, which is still decorated with works of art and sculptures that respect its past as an art gallery.
However, the journey of Etro did not start in a simple way. Mr. Freschi described how difficult it was for Gimmo to reach the customers in order to create brand awareness in a world already conquered by big firms, such as Chanel or Gucci, and where social media did not exist, and the two unavoidable steps to gain popularity were presenting the collection during the fashion weeks and appearing on the well-known Vogue USA. Yet Etro succeeded in it, going beyond the rules of fashion by inventing runaway shows in supermarkets or by improvising them on the street.
Nevertheless, Mr. Freschi elucidated that, nowadays, the competition to reach the final consumer is becoming more though day by day and that the consumer’s identity is changing a lot, moving from the West to the extreme East. As a matter of fact, the luxury industry is now focusing on the Chinese youngsters belonging to the Generation Z, who constitute 30% of all fashion buyers.
Communicating with this young generation means knowing their language, in order to speak with them through the social networks. The better the marketing, the higher the demand of the audience which can be perfectly demonstrated by Gucci and its incredible growth in 2017 under its CEOs (Mr. Marco Bizzari)
We also learned how difficult it is to work in a family run business. He called this model the model of the “King of sun”, where the sun is the founder of the Maison and the beams are both his family members and the other people working with him. The founder dictates the rules of the business, its identity and the line to follow. As a father, having three of his four children involved in the business, he is not yet able to let go of the brand that carries his signature; thus, when he actually leaves, it is hard to find a suitable replacement. This is why Mr. Freschi himself is happy to say, that he was the only one to get along well with all the family members – Kean (Creative Director of the Men collections), Veronica (Creative Director of the Women collections) and Jacopo (Creative Director of the Accessories collections), since such a good relationship between the CEO and the family members is not the rule, as seen in other Italian luxury brands.
This year Etro is having its 50th anniversary. Finally, the firm has developed from a clothing brand with a unique pattern to an empire, which has launched a fragrance collection in 1989 and a home collection in 2014 since it does not only want to be a brand, but an entire lifestyle. However, the challenge of the future is to remain competitive and attractive on a market which is becoming younger and even more technological than before. A challenge that Etro will not face alone but with Mr. Freschi, as its ace up its sleeve.
Sara Castellarin and Emily Charlotte Faß