Italian labels are moving to Asia: What does it mean for the future of fashion? | part III

Editor’s note: Welcome to the third and final 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 Italian fashion labels as they take on the 21st Century. 

For a complete list of sources, click here

In March 2003 Elio also announced he was closing the doors to Fiorucci’s historic shop in Corso Vittorio Emmaniele, Milan after 36 years. (Orso)

“When Fiorucci hit the scene nearly 40 years ago, he blew Italy—and the rest of the world—away with a larger-than-life attitude. He bought in the new and unexpected, pre-dating the surge of today’s ‘lifestyle’ stores. Fiorucci mixed clothing with beauty products, vintage items, music and home furnishings. He even used his retail space for artistic performances,” (Orso).

While department stores like Bloomingdale’s are known for their home products, such as small kitchen appliances, bedding and even pool tools, Fiorucci was a pioneer in that it *wasn’t* (and still isn’t) a department store. Anything on its shelves besides clothes and shoes is completely unexpected–or at least it was in Fiorucci’s heyday before the label made “lifestyle” boutiques the norm.

Today’s Free People and Anthropologie come to mind, which offer beauty products, books, music, desk supplies and tech accessories, as well as kitchen necessities and home decor in addition to clothes, shoes and accessories.

Free People also takes its so-called “lifestyle” a step further with its popular namesake blog that offers beauty and wellness advice, alongside fashion, music, DIY and recipe posts. And on its online shop, Free People also offers a selection of vintage clothing curated by the FP team. Search “vintage” for retro lace, leather, activewear and more, as well as designer accessories from labels like Gucci, tons of Vogue magazines from the 1970s and 80s and even some rock ‘n’ roll records.

Soon after closing the shop in Milan, Elio became an ethical vegetarian and animal rights activist (Orso). He said the reason he was closing the shop was because he had “fallen out of love” with fashion. At 80-years-old he passed away in July 2015 at his home in Milan, per

Fiorucci store on Brewer Street in London’s Soho [source: Culture Whisper]

The brand was then sold by the Japanese trading house Itochu to Janie Schaffer, ex-CEO of Victoria’s Secret, and her business partner and former husband Stephen, a team from the U.K based in London.

Plans to re-launch Fiorucci began in early 2017 with pop-up shops Barneys (New York), as well as Selfridges and Harrods (London) to gauge consumer interest. A new 3-storey Fiorucci store opened in Brewer St. in London’s Soho neighborhood in September of that year.

Hailey Baldwin in a Fiorucci t-shirt, 2017 [source:]

Hailey Baldwin in Fiorucci corduroy pants, 2017 [source:]

Models such as Hailey Baldwin, Romee Strijd, Joan Smalls, as well as blogger Olivia of Olivia By Nature and actress Dakota Johnson have been spotted wearing the label. Big names like Georgia May Jagger (daughter of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger) and musician Cailin Russo appear in recent Fiorucci campaigns.

To celebrate the launch of its new store, Fiorucci hosted a “Disco Christmas” party on December 7, 2017 at the Soho location. Complete with DJs and cocktails, Fiorucci welcomed all its customers and fans via Instagram and email, keeping alive Elio’s tradition of the store being more than just a store.

The brand has a strong social media presence, with over 50 thousand followers on Instagram. Fiorucci used this platform to both send an open invite to its Disco Christmas, and to showcase the event in real time via Instagram’s live streaming tool.

While a ton of aspects from Fiorucci’s heyday remain the same for the brand’s overall vibe, a lot has changed on the business end to keep up with the fashion industry as it adapts to advancements in technology.

Although Fiorucci was sold from Japan to the U.K. in 2015, one cannot help but notice the pattern of Italian labels moving to Asia (alongside the obvious Asian influence in fashion today). Another name that comes to mind is sportswear giant Fila.

Before moving to sportswear in the 1970s, Fila launched in Biella, Italy by two brothers in 1911 (from Fila) as clothing (and underwear) for people of the Italian Alps. The label gained popularity when it was endorsed by tennis player Bjørn Borg.

In 2003 the company was sold to U.S. hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management. Cerberus owned Fila through the holding company Sports Brands International, which owned and operated all Fila businesses around the world *except Fila Korea.

Fila Korea acquired the global Fila brand and all its international subsidiaries from SBI in January of 2007, making it the largest South Korean sportswear company. Fila Korea currently holds all of the rights to the worldwide use of footwear and clothing brands of the parent firm.

ANTA Sports acquired rights to use the brand in China (Full Prospect) two years later in 2009 from Belle International. At this point Fila Korea still owned 15 percent of the shares of the joint venture company Full Prospect). (From Anta)

Fila Korea Ltd. Acquired global golf equipment maker Acushnet Company, becoming the new owner of leading golf brands, such as Titleist for $1.23 billion. (Thomas)

Behind-the-scenes of the Diesel A/W 2014 campaign by Formichetti [source: South China Morning Post]

And then there’s Diesel, an edgy Italian streetwear label famous for its denim.

Nicola Formichetti, the son of an Italian pilot and Japanese flight attendant, was named the first artistic director of the Italian label in 2013. Although his contract is set to expire before New Year’s Day 2018, he has brought a ton of Asian influence to the historically Italian label and will be parting ways with Diesel amicably, per WWD.

In an interview with WWD writers Luisa Zargani and Rosemary Feitelberg, Diesel’s founder Renzo Rosso “points out Formichetti’s Japanese background, saying that Japan was very inspirational every season, defining it as ‘the most avant-garde country,’ and one that accounts for 21 percent of Diesel’s business.”

“[Formichetti] also has Italian blood, so he is special. I like him personally, and we complement each other,” Rosso added. (Feitelberg, Zargani)

Additionally, Diesel won’t be appointing a successor to the artistic director just yet.

“I believe this kind of company can work differently, and not in this same kind of direction. There are many things coming up, special projects. The market is very different now. We want to be modern, I want to explore,” Rosso explains to WWD.

Formichetti plans to focus on his own brand Nicopanda, as well as his partnership with Japanese casual wear chain Uniqlo. He also leaves behind an incredible legacy at Diesel, which was formed over the course of just five years. (Feitelberg, Zargani)

“Last year, Diesel held a second megashow in Tokyo to mark the company’s 30th anniversary in that country, presenting the brand’s fall collection readily available in stores and online the same day. Formichetti also curated an exhibition with archival looks from 1978 until today and launched dedicated capsule collections to be distributed in Japan,” per WWD.

This so-called “see-now, buy-now” concept is a popular trend among both well-known and little-known fashion designers, and one that speaks volumes about the “insta-society” in which we live.

WWD also points out that Formichetti was “a pioneer in establishing a web of friends and followers on social media. Formichetti’s ad campaigns for Diesel were aimed at creating an online community.”

Georgia May Jagger for Fiorucci [source: The Impression]

Georgia May Jagger for Fiorucci [source: i-D]

Georgia May Jagger for Fiorucci [source: Pinterest]

Cailin Russo for Fiorucci, 2017 [source: InStyle]

Cailin Russo for Fiorucci, 2017 [source:]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *