Editor’s note: Welcome to the second installment of a 3-part series on Haute Mess! This week I’ll be discussing something very close to my heart: Italian fashion.
Although I am American by birth, I’m Italian by blood. And, as all my followers, readers and friends know, fashion has been a strong personal interest of mine for as long as I can remember. Lucky for me, the two often overlap; after all, Italy is home to iconic labels like Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Missoni and La Perla.
The shift from Europe to Asia is something I noticed on my own, and instantly thought it spoke volumes about the [fashion] industry as a whole. I collected and organized my thoughts into this 3-part essay that focuses on Fiorucci. While Fiorucci isn’t a household name in the same capacity brands like Gucci, Prada or Dolce & Gabbana are, it has been beyond influential for decades–so much so that, in some senses I will discuss, it represents a number of fashion labels as they take on the 21st Century.
For a complete list of sources, click here.
Meanwhile on the business end, 1981 saw a couple big changes for Fiorucci. Benetton bought Montedison’s 50-percent stake in Fiorucci (which reduced to 33.3 percent in 1986), and Elio brought in Iranian businessman Massimo Aki Nuhi (i.e., Akinouhi) as a third partner via his holding company Aknofin. In August 1987, Benetton sold their remaining stake to Fiorucci and Aki Nuhi.
A combination of “thriving sales” (with which the company could not keep up) and “poor management” forced Fiorucci to close its Manhattan store in 1986.New York-based fashion designer Betsey Johnson said, “Fiorucci was the most happening place. It never stopped being happening—it just left New York City, because I don’t think New York City was happening enough by the mid-80s,” (Chaplin).
Two years later Fiorucci closed its remaining U.S. stores after a franchise dispute, and moved instead to a wholesale strategy. In April of the following year, Fiorucci went into administration after a dispute over the strategic direction of the firm that had seen Elio offer to buy-out Aki Nuhi (WWD).
It was then that the Tacchella brothers came to the rescue (Bannon).In January 1996, after a plea bargain, Elio was given a suspended jail sentence of 22 months for inflating the value of invoices to increase the value of the company to Carrera at the expense of his creditors (from Corriere della Sera, a). Luciano Benetton was cleared of similar charges “on the grounds that he had not been involved at an operational level during his time (September 1985-September 1987) on the board at Fiorucci,” (from Corriere della Sera, b).
The deal with Edwin was signed June 4, 1990 (and ratified October 1990), but Edwin did not gain control of the assets until May 1992, causing the company to lose the rights to the Fiorucci name in Canada on the grounds of disuse (Gamache).
Edwin’s first major act was a deal with Coles Myer, which led to 68 Fiorucci concessions in stores across Australia. A new store also opened in Piazza San Babila, Milan in early 1993; it included a variety of branded boutiques (Forden).However, things were very different on the North American front. Later that year a deal fell through with Mary Ann Wheaton of Wheaton International (Gordon). It was not until 1995 when Edwin was able to license the rights for eyewear in the U.S. to Swan International Optical (Parr).
Although Fiorucci opened a U.S. office in September of 1997 (Parr), the strategy of their licensee, Stephen Budd, to sell the brand into U.S. department stores was not successful (Chaplin). Two years later, the label announced its plan to open a U.S. store in time for the holiday season. However, the store on lower Broadway did not open until June 2001. (Chaplin)
Kim Hastreiter (a commentator) was “skeptical that [Fiorucci] could recapture the buzz of times passed, given the increased competition in mass-market clubbing gear from the likes of H&M and The Limted,” (Chaplin).While the brand continued to thrive in Europe during 1995, a campaign for jeans featuring a naked woman’s behind and pink furry handcuffs restored (some) former notoriety, and the jeans became “instant bestsellers,” (From Memorabilia: Fiorucci’s Steps).
The year 1999 saw the launch of a successful perfume, and two years later Fiorucci launched another successful fragrance. In 2003 the label launched Miss Fiorucci, a makeup line. Meanwhile, Edwin aggressively expanded the brand throughout Asia, from Seoul to Tokyo and China. (From Memorabilia: Fiorucci’s Steps)
Elio “retained creative control during the Edwin era,” and the new owners were “protective of the Fiorucci trademarks.” In fact, they “took legal action against H&M when Elio designed H&M’s poolside line” (Orso) and designed for Agent Provacteur.