Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

People spending most on luxury bags and shoes: Emilio Carbonera Giani

The new COO on global trends in luxury, and the family-owned Italian knitwear brand's plans for India and China

The newly appointed chief operating officer (COO) at Missoni SpA, the family-owned Italian luxury knitwear brand, Emilio Carbonera Giani, is currently on a tour, visiting markets where the brand has a presence. Missoni opened its India store at the Emporio mall in south Delhi in 2013. Soft-spoken Giani, a former banker who has worked with Valentino SpA and Salvatore Ferragamo earlier, made a brief stopover in Delhi between his visits to the Middle East and Hong Kong. He spoke on global trends in luxury and the company’s plans for India and China. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How important is the India market for you considering you have opened only one store in the country since 2013?

India is a very important market and fast growing for the luxury business. I joined the company six months ago, so I wanted to go around to get a global picture of retailing. That is the main purpose of my visit. We are a very peculiar company. We are not very big. We develop business step by step. We are not rushing or putting pressure on retailing by opening too many stores. We want to consolidate this store. The numbers this season are really looking up both for ladies wear and menswear. And yes, if the trend continues in the months to come, definitely we will open another store, which is going to be in Mumbai.

Any time frame you can give for the next store?

No, not really because I prefer to consolidate here first. Luckily for us, we are a very sound company. The numbers are very good in terms of profitability.

Could you share the numbers?

They are not official. But we are growing at 20% this year. The global turnover of Missoni is €160 million. We are investing in the company using our own capital. I am coming from a long trip to the Middle East…I went to Beirut and Dubai. And then I am moving to Hong Kong for a while and then China, where we are setting up a new business hopefully.

So you are not present in China?

Not yet. China is an important market of course, but you know it is a market which is suffering a bit in the luxury business. We are late in entering China because we wanted to set up in other markets. We have to be careful, so we will go with some select, very high-level multi-brand stores in Shanghai and elsewhere, and then go to a monobrand boutique. We could enter China in the next 12 to 24 months.

Is Europe your largest market?

Europe is the biggest market. Italy is relatively small. I would say, Italy accounts for less than 20% of the global turnover. Within this 20%, at least 50% is made of foreign clients and customers coming from outside. So the real potential of Italy is 10% and the rest is export market. We actually have a very good business in the UK, France and, surprisingly now, Germany.

We do have a monobrand store in New York, on Madison Avenue, which is our best performing store. We have interesting plans for it as we are developing a concept which is mixing art and retailing. Missoni is a company which is very close to art in terms of inspirational trends. The family is very close to artists in Italy and abroad. So we are taking advantage of this culture in the company. It will become a destination store.

Over the years Missoni has remained a family-run enterprise. Is this business model scalable?

Missoni has been growing, but growing slowly, which is part of the philosophy of the company. But we have interesting plans to develop retailing, which is based on completing our product range with a full accessories collection. We have a bag collection, which is currently not very strong. We are much more focused on garments now. But we feel we have a great potential in bags. When I joined the company and walked into the archives, I found fantastic bags in a mix of fabric and leather which can be developed into an interesting collection. We can also expand our M Missoni line, which is our second line. It is different in price positioning and is lower by 20-25%.

Is luxury retail recession-free?

It is not recession-free…clearly certain markets like China are an example of the fact that luxury is not recession-free. But it is a debatable concept because according to us, luxury has something to do with scarcity, which is the idea of Missoni. If you look at some of the brands which built a fantastic business in the past in China, they now have a problem because they have too many stores. They are now closing a certain number of stores because they want to reconsider their presence. So I won’t say that luxury is crisis-free. But for Missoni, I must say, I have not seen the impact of the crisis. We have been quite stable.

What are the global trends in luxury? What are people really spending on—jewellery, apparel?

There is a very clear indication that people are spending on shoes and bags. So accessories is what people are buying. The fastest growing companies are shoes and accessories companies. But again, I think, the real future of luxury is to have a product which is unique.

Does a luxury knitwear brand makes sense in India’s hot climate?

Yes, because we have different weights of fabrics. We have knitted cotton. And what we are doing now—not only for India, but for other hot countries—we are developing special light fabrics for the autumn-winter collection.

Do you hire big designers or are the designs done by the family?

It’s a mix. Our director Angela Missoni, who belongs to the family, does the designs. But we also bring on board young designers from most interesting design schools all over the world.

Do you hire local designers in different markets?

We do not do that as a practice. But to tell you the truth, the Middle East is a very interesting market for kidswear. There is a huge business. All the brands have their own kids collection and we are also doing extremely well. I was thinking to hire a designer locally, someone who is very close to Middle Eastern tastes because over there I think you have to develop some specific collections for very particular tastes.

Will you work with Indian designers?

We have nothing against them, but you know we have to have an overall idea. So if an Indian designer has to be involved, he will design a collection for everybody and not just for India. That’s because the way we see it, our best-selling items all over the world are the same as in India. So there is an evenness which I was not expecting.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time does not exist these days. It is only work. But I like to ski and not miss an opportunity to play tennis. I also like to travel and see different cultures. I like the Japanese culture. I lived there for sometime and keep going back.

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