Scion puts fashion firm in the lap of luxury

Updated: 2013-01-04 09:44

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

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Scion puts fashion firm in the lap of luxury

Tomaso Trussardi's film-star looks have been used to promote the company. Provided to China Daily

Trussardi family business looks to expand on back of Chinese demand

Tomaso Trussardi is just 29 years old, but he reckons he is old and sophisticated enough to know a thing or two about helping run a multimillon-euro company.

"I was born into this company," says Trussardi, a fourth-generation descendant of Dante Trussardi, who founded the Trussardi Group, the Italian luxury clothing and fashion accessories maker.

"The skill of CEO is something in my DNA, and I have learned to be a CEO since I came into this world."

Trussardi's forebears, especially his father, Nicola Trussardi, turned a small glove-making business established in 1911 in Bergamo into a brand appreciated by British royalty and European fashionistas. But the family was struck by tragedy when Tomaso's father and his brother Francesco died in car crashes in 1999 and 2003. Tomaso's older sister Beatrice became CEO of Trussardi Group in 2002, and Tomaso is CEO of TRS Evolution, the Trussardi Group company that produces clothing and accessories.

The company is now writing a new chapter in its history in Shanghai. It has opened a leather fashion house on the Bund, the well-known tourist destination. To many, the decision has evoked memories of a similar operation his father, a trendsetter in Italy, started in Milan in 1976.

"We want to grow," Trussardi says. "We are growing at a double-digit rate in every market. And speaking of growing, since Europe is in recession and there is little market share for us in America, we would like to focus on China."

China is one of the company's fastest-growing markets, he says.

Even though the international consulting firms Bain & Co and McKinsey & Co have both said the Chinese market for luxury products expanded at a slower pace last year and will continue to do so in the coming couple of years, China's demand for luxury goods remains strong.

Bain has predicted that 2012 will turn in a growth figure of 7 percent, and McKinsey has suggested the rate will be between 12 and 16 percent for the next three years; it was 18 percent in 2011.

According to a recent McKinsey report on luxuries, by 2015 more than a third of the money spent in the world on luxury bags, shoes, watches and clothing will come from Chinese consumers.

Trussardi's new flagship store in Shanghai, the first one in the Chinese mainland, is in a prestigious building on the Bund.

Its two floors occupy 400 square meters and present a decorative facade that the company believes will present "a chic look and perfectly interpret Trussardi luxury".

"It is a completely different one from other stores in European cities," Trussardi says. "The exterior design of this store is brand new, a work of Michael Young, an internationally renowned designer. And we have given our greyhound logo a tri-dimensional look only for this store."

Trussardi says it is difficult for him to tell what influences or changes he is bringing to the company.

"I am trying to stick to what we are. I don't want to make big changes, but only move faster to develop the business, for example, in this market."

The company now has 440 stores in 23 countries. Although the brand has been known in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai through its Tru Trussardi collection, it was not until the beginning of last year that it introduced its primary line.

Trussardi says he believes the market is now ready for a brand such as Trussardi, which, he says, has much more than a popular logo.

The Chinese are no longer obsessed with logos and are instead more attracted to craftsmanship, quality products and Italian lifestyle, he says.

"Chinese customers now are more mature."

His beliefs find support from Bain and McKinsey.

Bruno Lannes, partner at Bain in China and the lead author of the China Luxury Market Study, says luxury shoppers in China have gone from "showing off" to "recognizing and learning".

The change will pose difficulties to luxury brands, which will lose customers unless they offer them something more relevant than "the status of those brands", he says.

Shoppers in second and third-tier cities in China continue to acknowledge being attracted to products with "remarkable logos", but 65 percent of the shoppers Bain polled in Shanghai and Beijing said they plan to buy fewer luxuries bearing well-known logos.

McKinsey, on the other hand, found that two-thirds of the respondents to its Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey "agreed or strongly agreed" that they prefer luxury goods that are understated. And more than half of the respondents said they think "showing off luxury goods is in bad taste".

Two years ago only 37 percent of the respondents expressed such a view.

In the next five years Trussardi plans to open 15 stores in China that will be completely managed by the company itself, as well as 15 in the Asia-Pacific region. The company now has total managerial control of 25 percent of its stores.

"Chinese customers are really willing to spend a lot of money on what they want," Trussardi says.

"In Europe or the United States it may take at least half an hour to sell a bag that is priced over 1,000 euros ($1,320), while here, Chinese customers are like 'goal customers' who don't bother with money."

For Trussardi, the biggest difficulty in China will come in giving people an understanding of its brand without "taking customers back to Italy".

"Trussardi is first a family," says Trussardi, who began appearing in the company's advertisements at the suggestion of his father when he was 15 years old. "The identity of Trussardi first comes from a family."

In keeping with that practice, Trussardi's film-star looks were featured in a recent video clip promoting the brand's newest perfume in a campaign to mark the 100th anniversary of the company.

Trussardi has a master's degree in corporate finance and banking from Bocconi University in Milan. Wanting to practice the techniques of communication, he once worked as a journalist.

After reporting for three years on what he called "the hot topics of the day", he says he prefers his present job, although it comes with more responsibilities.

"My father and my mother, along with my family, give me my thoughts and also my experience. That's something in my DNA. It's genetic. I am really lucky because I have the possibilities to grow in the environment of my family and ... to become who I am."

(China Daily 01/04/2013 page20)