Slowear is a brand of four traditional Italian apparel manufacturers who are expanding globally, providing a unique store concept to their customers.
The fashion industry today is roughly comparable to a pot of alphabet soup: masses of letters (products) are floating around in artificial liquids (brands). They look equal and taste similar, but without having a genuine approach that displays diversity; the products are produced in soulless factories to service a hungry market. But fortunately there are exceptions, such as Slowear.
Have you heard about the traditional, north Italian clothing manufacturers Incotex, Zanone, Glanshirt and Montedoro? Together they have created a new recipe by adding the flavour to the soup of an artificial, fast brand-world. They have applied the classic Italian values of Slow Food to fashion and created Slowear. Each clothing brand represents an authentic ingredient, that contributes value to the final dish, but without loss of their individual flavour and identity.
The idea for Slowear as a collaborating brand was born to the Venetian brothers Roberto and Marzio Compagno. They are the 2nd generation members of the family owned Incotex – a venerable trouser manufactory, established in 1951. Though the company focused on just tailoring pants in the beginning, by the early 2000’s the Compagnos started to develop ideas of collaboration that would grow the company, with the goal of achieving greater impact in a strongly fought distribution market.
Three other traditionally specialised companies with a craft minded approach matched well to Incotex: Zanone, established in a niche for sophisticated knitwear; Glenshirt as a native shirtmaker; and Montedoro, known for garments to wear above the other two like coats and outdoor and indoor jackets. Another asset in common was that all four manufactories are located on a belt from Venice to Biella thus they don’t just literally speak the same language
No-Brand or It-Brand
“Slowear is not a brand – it’s just the name we use to link these similar brands”, Marzio Compagno expressed in a Robb Report post back in 2007. However, to me the so called ‘no-brand’ is actually now more of an ‘it-brand’ these days.
We live in times of fast fashion and dramatic loss in product values. Producing up to 52 collections per year is not uncommon for vertical retail brands. The products are distributed globally but produced somewhere hidden, by the poorest of the poor. This may continue, but a new generation of critical, strongly informed customers is emerging. They are interested to learn the home stories, to know more about the makers. They expect transparency, quality, reliability and exclusivity. For future fans of brands these factors are crucial in influencing purchasing choices.
Expansion of the Slowear Story Board
Since launching the umbrella brand idea, the Italians have opened Slowear brand stores in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle-East over the last few years, selling all four lines under one roof. It’s not thousands of stores but a good dozen is relevant, representing a gentle expansion. Additionally, wholesale distribution is growing, to selected multibrand retailers and department stores, supervised by own showrooms in Milan, New York and Tokyo.
Allow me to assume that each of the niche companies from the countryside south of the Alps would not have made this move on their own. I’d also suppose that the collective, worldwide expansion of Slowear’s new store concept in prominent locations, creates desire for individual stores to list those Slowear brands. The result by default is that both efforts end up increasing end-customer attention and sales.
While one can buy a whole outfit for peanuts today, the value for other consumers is in the heritage stories of the clothing and its makers. The four protagonists in the Slowear model have created a unique story board which is socially relevant: in particular, it’s a reminder about how to manufacture excellent clothes, about the culture of craftsmanship and how to dress with style without investing a fortune into artificial marketing overheads. In general, Slowear’s added value as a brand is that the products of all four labels match each other in style and timelessness. Plus, the belief that good clothes are better quality and have the potential to last for generations.
A ‘House of…’ Brand is not Creating a Story
There were other company holdings in fashion which opened ‘House of…’ retail stores in the past and have been more or less successful. They may have followed a similar distribution idea to the Slowear store concept but in my opinion there’s a significant difference: their collected brands did not tell a trustworthy manufacturer story. Their impact was somehow more artificial.
At Slowear, customers learn the added value of the traditions of the brands and its products. The stores are more like a bundled, sensory experience of a quality culture than just a collection of different brands, being assembled on a sales floor for whatever reason.
Authenticity Versus Short-Term Fashion
What Slowear sells is not short-term fashion, their promise is simply good products and they sell authenticity – without even using the buzzword. Here’s how they answer the question “Why Slowear?” – their statement to the hyped world of fashion:
“Because creating unique, carefully constructed and durable garments takes time, meditation and experience. Because ‘slow’ is everything that respects quality, workmanship, people and the environment − more than just a way of thinking about clothing, it is a whole lifestyle choice.”
Reading this right now – are you a brand manager, a marketing executive, a store concept developer? Can you tell by heart whether your statements about your brand’s mission and quality standards promote trust to your customers?
It’s thoughts such as these that influence much needed cultural change within brands and the industry as a whole.
About the Author:
Alexander von Keyserlingk, has a personal connection to the ‘Slow Movement’ phenomenon since he founded his Slowretail Blog in 2007. Its purpose is to give independent retailers a platform and encourage them to strive for innovation with offline stores. Feel free to contact him by email or see more from him here.