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Alessandro Maria Ferreri: Intelligence Service for Luxury
If the world of fashion had a network of secret agents, Alessandro Maria Ferreri would be its director.
Expansive product knowledge, an extensive network, an intuitive sense of timing, and the massive amount of information at his disposal would make Alessandro Maria Ferreri the perfect leader of a ‘Fashion Mossad’ if such a thing existed.
In 2020, Ferreri was selected by Forbes as one of the 100 most influential entrepreneurs in Italy. Following 2 decades as manager for luxury houses such as Hermès, Moschino and Jean-Paul Gaultier, he established his own consulting business: The Style Gate.
A walking encyclopaedia of fashion, his attention to detail, his knowledge of the sector, and his well-placed connections place him at the the very highest echelons. Highly intuitive, passionately dedicated to his work, a multilingual frequent traveller, Ferreri is a true citizen of the world.
A brilliant career
As a university engineering student, Ferreri studied CAD (computer-aided drafting) applications for designers from the Aeffe Group. He later joined the group – which already included brands such as Moschino, Alberta Ferretti, Pollini, Narciso Rodriguez and Rifat Ozbek – staying 8 years, first as director of productions, then as general director for the Mid- and Far East. He then spent 4 years at the head of Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris, under the direction of Hermès, before going to Etro, where he stayed for 5 years as director of global sales and marketing. With Renzo Rosso’s ‘Only the Brave’ he served as global product and sales manager for all of the group’s brands: Marni, Margiela, Dsquared2, Marc Jacobs and Viktor&Rolf.
Six years ago he created The Style Gate, a luxury sector consulting firm whose atypical made-to-measure approach accompanies brands from product development through to distribution and communication.
Alessandro Maria Ferreri also helps young firms to develop: “Start-ups now understand that it is faster and less expensive to call in external experts rather than trying to do it all on their own.”
Alessandro Maria Ferreri is one of the most competent leaders in the luxury fashion industry today. He knows the sector better than anyone, from how things work behind the scenes to the discovery of new creative and managerial talents.
“An inspiring leader, with strong values and the highest level of competence in fashion and in the luxury industry in general,” states Christophe de Pous, president of Gucci America.
Entrepreneurs have for some time now been looking at the hotel and restaurant sectors as a parallel investment possibility, a way of expressing a stylistic idea not only in apparel or accessories but also via an experience.
“Creating transversal plans is important for the evolution of the luxury sector, creating synergies or finding new investment opportunities. There is now a proliferation of partnerships, fashion brands uniting to create capsule collections, as Northface and Gucci
“It’s often difficult for us to think that someone can be very creative and successful in two arts that seem to belong to two different worlds. I say that there is no reason that a great stylist can’t also produce a chain of fantastic restaurants and hotels, that someone in luxury dining can’t win in fashion. LVMH, for example, has acquired the hotel group Belmond and has already significantly developed the Bulgari chain.”
Alessandro, do you have a global vision for the fashion industry? How do you see fashion brands on the other side of the crisis?
“I am of the idea that rebirth, retaining position, depends on the people and not just on the product. Brands depend on people, on managers most of all. The brands that have survived this pandemic without too much damage, as well as those who have even grown their business, all benefit from enlightened leadership. A new kind of leadership is required because the present is completely different to the past. Without visionary leadership, the product necessarily suffers. There is such a large supply of products, in every range of price and refinement, that there is no need to come up with a new product; everything already exists. The person driving the train truly does make all the difference. Communications and public relations are nothing like they were in the past because consumers have completely changed.”
“Perceptions have changed as well, as products are purchased digitally rather than physically. Attitudes about shopping, the experience of buying, are different.”
“The brands, large and small, that have survived or even grown have done so not because the product is more beautiful or less expensive but because the leaders and managers prepared their business for all eventualities ahead of time. With this kind of long-term vision, a year of pandemic is just a small rock in the road.”
What is the role of artisanship in the Made in Italy tradition?
“Without artisanship, there would be no Made in Italy luxury products. Italy is the world’s top producer in the luxury market. We have a responsibility not only to our global partners but to our network of small artisanal workshops as well. Developing these small business is a large part of my job, helping them overcome difficulties like the inability to invest in their own growth or the passage from one generation to the next. We have the moral obligation to protect the artisans in our production and supply lines. Italian artisanal know-how is fundamental to luxury production. Without it, we’re dead. The artisan is the beating heart without which true luxury would simply not exist.”
Tell us a little about your recipe, ‘Image, Quality, and Made-in-…”.
“Yes, these are the three essential elements for launching or rebuilding a brand because they are the three components that motivate us to buy something.”
First of all, the image.
“For example, a young woman buys a beautiful evening dress for a party. Wearing it enriches her, makes her feel fascinating. Another example: I buy a car or a pair of shoes because they afford me a certain image.”
Quality is fundamental: “People have understood that their closets are full of clothes that make them realise that they should have listened to the old saying, ‘Buy less and buy better’. Attention to quality is crucial now even to mid-level products, whereas before branding was really all that was required, turning a blind eye to poor quality. Now quality has become fundamental at all levels.”
And the ‘Made-in-…” for identifying the best things from somewhere?
“Artisanal production, ‘hand-made’, and ‘Made-in-…’ all testify to the expertise and experience of a given place. Personally, I enjoy travelling the world to find where things are made best. I’m a fan of ‘Made-in-…’ in the sense that I am interested in the traceability and the visibility of the product’s path, assuring me of its quality. Of course, we in Italy have a whole range of award-winning products, from food to fashion and luxury in general. There are so many things that we do better than anyone else in the world.”
What do you like about Milan and how do you see it developing in the future?
“It’s become a much better city, it’s more international. It’s lost a bit in terms of fashion… the Paris Fashion Week is certainly larger and more interesting than Milan’s. But we have been able to diversify with an excellent Salone del Mobile (furniture show) and an entire series of initiatives in hospitality and gastronomy.
Milan has become much more beautiful, people are lovelier, and it is decidedly more international. This makes me hopeful for businesses based here in Milan because by breathing better air, we all stand to benefit.
“If Milan – through her residents, her culture, and her luxury – becomes an example for others, that’s already a wonderful victory.”
Alessandro, where does your exceptional sensitivity to beauty come from?
“I have it in my blood. I was also fortunate enough to be exposed to beautiful things, both culturally and aesthetically, and I’ve met beautiful people. Experience has taught me to pay careful attention to detail, of vital importance to the production of luxury, to the creation of innovations, to the addition of those few special ingredients that make a product appear marvellous, without you knowing exactly what it is that makes it seem so marvellous: that is my trade.”
What are you working on these days and what new projects are you considering, if you can tell us?
“Of course they’re confidential, but what I can say is that my client portfolio has become quite diversified. For example, at the moment I’m even doing a lot of work with interior design. Our network of talented staff, local artisans, trustworthy production plants, innovative processes and access to a vast selection of materials allows us to provide sustainable luxury products.
I’ve got fantastic projects with Mattec Interiors, a company owned by the royal family of Liechtenstein, leader in made-to-measure furnishings for luxury stores, private homes, and commercial spaces. They make all the stores for Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Acqua di Parma, Louboutin, Vivienne Westwood, and Margiela. They also have projects with hotels by Ferragamo, Bulgari and Sheraton. And they make exclusive use of hand-made Italian artisanal pieces, creating magnificent spaces with marbles, woods, crystal… all made in Italy.”
You truly embody elegance in 3600, don’t you?
“Our first impression can tell us a lot about a person’s attention to detail and their awareness of beauty and luxury. Being an icon of fashion doesn’t really matter, but good manners do. I’m from Turin and grew up in boarding school in Switzerland. I’ve spoken 5 languages since I was a child. People talk a lot about diversity these days, that’s all I’ve ever known. This aggregate of experiences creates a person who makes a good impression and is remembered.”