Fashion for the future
While almost all of Italy’s renowned fashion brands have long been globalised, Venetian menswear outfitter Slowear is very much connected to its roots. “I think Slowear is one of the very few Italian businesses that is still in the hands of the family,” says Marco Muggiano, business development and communications director at the company. Its beginnings can be traced back to 1951, when Carlo Compagno founded renowned trouser company Incotex; in 2003, a number of other Italian craft brands were brought into the fold, and Slowear was born. The company is now run by his sons, Roberto and Marzio.
Between them, they have instilled in Slowear a reputation for producing durable, lasting clothing – following the example of the Slow Food movement – without in-your-face marketing strategies and cathedral-like shops. “There are no funds, no banks, just the family. Most Italian brands are owned by big groups – financial groups and the like,” says Marco. “They need to expand, because they need to produce value. Instead, we are a company where the owner believes that it’s more important to build brand awareness.”
Slowear’s retail manager in London, Alessandro Rossetti, believes that the key to building brand awareness in the purest way is to have a presence in neighbourhood communities, rather than destination shopping streets. “Usually, we try to find locations in residential districts, as opposed to touristic, high street locations. Having local people shop with us is important, because people will hear about us through word of mouth.
“Since I joined the company and since the King’s Road opening, I see many new clients become loyal; they pass the message on to their friends,” says Alessandro. “We currently run 42 stores around the world, and we always try to find the neighbourhood areas. The nice thing about Chelsea is that it has an international reputation, but people still live here. It’s a good balance – compared to somewhere like Bond Street, which is just business.”
The locations of the stores, plus the homely yet luxe atmosphere in each, are both important in projecting the right image of Slowear as a label for those who see themselves as localistas, says Marco. “Someone who is very local might expect fresh fruits from the grocery, the smell of bread in the morning from the baker, and good quality fabrics in their clothes. We tend to be appealing to this kind of person.”
Slowear incorporates a number of Italian craft-led brands under one roof; Incotex is the starting point of the brand, with 50 years’ of history making the original chino trouser. Montedoro offers refined outerwear; knitwear is under the remit of Zanone; and shirts are produced by Glanshirt. “Slowear stands for durable fashion,” explains Marco. “Whatever you buy in the store has been built to survive in your wardrobe. We want to change the way people are consuming. In an era where luxury brands and fast fashion pushes you to buy every six months, we want to show people that they should buy less, but better. Better quality, better styles, better fabrics, better colours – and it lives longer because the colours are very easy. In three years’ time they won’t be out of fashion.”
The team say that while Slowear operates internationally, they see themselves as an Italian brand simply available across the world. “We don’t want to look like a globalised brand, because basically we’re not. We make ourselves available in other markets in terms of the availability of the products; but we’re not globalised. The buying for the stores is different, the stores are never the same. You have the same feeling, but they’re completely different.” The brand refuses to sell itself based on anything other than the quality of its products. “You will never see a logo on our products. You recognise the product for the style, the colour, the fit and fabric and nothing else.”
The King’s Road shop is almost like a concept store, with a décor that emphasises the lifestyle surrounding the typical Slowear man, like Roberto Compagno. “When we started talking about how to build this store, we decided that it was important to put his passion into it. The store is a continuation of his spirit. That’s why in the store, you will find original vintage furniture and Scandinavian, Italian and French design from the 50s and 60s; you might also see aspects inspired by architects of the 40s and 50s like Jean Prouvé, or lamps from Castiglioni. Roberto also loves rock and roll and 60s and 70s music, so we also display and sell records and books, too.”
From its garments to the cultural ephemera it sells and the thoughtful, aesthete-friendly décor, Slowear embodies and articulates a certain lifestyle; one that puts quality and the art of understatement on a pedestal. “We don’t follow any trend. This is a company where the owner doesn’t care about the result of this year; he cares about the results we get in 10 years’ time. It’s a long-term vision that translates into quality.
“We’re the opposite to what the fashion panorama is today.”
15 King’s Road