MILAN — After signing its first license with Il Gufo for a children’s clothing line last year, Aspesi has doubled its commitment to expanding the category by signing an agreement with Area B for beachwear.
The multi-year license will cover the development, production and global distribution of men’s and women’s swimwear and beachwear, with an initial collection of 50 items launching in spring 2023.
“It’s a brand that had never had licenses, but we actually needed it to become a real lifestyle label,” said Aspesi general manager Simona Clemenza, who initiated this strategy upon her arrival. in the company in 2019. “We saw that there was tremendous potential because we were already perceived as a lifestyle brand that only offered ready-to-wear, so we decided to expand the assortment and to entrust specific categories to the best specialists on the market.
In some cases, such as beachwear, the brand has already tested customer feedback by introducing certain pieces beforehand. “We had a few swimsuits in our ready-to-wear offer, but there were very few models. Yet, we have seen some interest in this category coming from the market”, confirms Clemenza, adding that partnering with a licensee was necessary because certain technical skills to develop the products in-house were lacking.
The executive defined Area B as the “best national referent in the category” and underlined the alchemy that has been established between the teams of the two companies. This synergy allowed the parties to quickly spin the project and develop styles to present to wholesalers in June.
Founded in 1999, Area B already has licenses for brands such as Karl Lagerfeld, Iceberg and Bikkembergs, as well as private label clients such as Missoni, Giambattista Valli, Mary Katrantzou and Dondup.
In keeping with Aspesi’s low-key signature on streetwear – which has found new energy under the creative direction of Lawrence Steele – beachwear will have an unfussy aesthetic.
“Licensing deals only work if a brand treats these categories as its own, with the same dedication, otherwise there’s the risk of diluting the DNA,” noted Clemenza, who aims to have four to five licenses for brands. key categories. After the children’s line and beachwear, the next addition could be eyewear, as she hinted that she sees this for Aspesi.
The beachwear collection will be distributed in the brand’s boutiques and e-commerce, as well as at a selection of specialized retailers that will allow the brand to develop in new markets.
Aspesi operates 15 monobrand and shop-in-shop stores and sells its collections in 600 boutiques worldwide, while Area B distributes its products in 34 countries, with 386 points of sale in Italy and 413 abroad.
Overall, under Clemenza’s leadership, Aspesi launched a new direct-to-consumer strategy. Despite the pandemic, in the past two years the brand has opened 15 units in stores, pop-up stores and franchised doors. For example, the brand launched a 2,153-square-foot flagship in Tokyo’s upscale Aoyama district, as well as a pop-up store on the contemporary floor of the Ginza Six department store.
The focus on retail in Japan has further strengthened the company’s performance in this country, which is one of Aspesi’s key markets along with Europe. Clemenza said Aspesi’s next challenges are to expand into China and the United States. The latter is the primary target at the moment, as the company recently changed local distributors and sees huge potential for growth.
“Having an American creative director also helped. We are seeing unprecedented brand awareness,” Clemenza confirmed.
Appointed in 2020, Steele is the first designer to officially hold such a position within the brand, founded by fashion entrepreneur Alberto Aspesi in 1969. The appointment marks a strong comeback for the American designer, who had been a consultant for company for 13 years, from 2004 to 2017.
“We didn’t launch any licensing project before appointing a creative director… We needed a guide and someone who could set the tone. Only under a creative director can you really expand product categories,” Clemenza said, praising Steele for his “great culture and depth” that made him “the guarantor of rationalism and integrity characteristic of Aspesi”.
The executive pointed out that Steele has enabled the alignment of the men’s and women’s collections in terms of products, as well as overall consistency in all means of communication.
“He transmitted his vision to the whole team,” continued Clemenza. “Tone of voice is an essential element and it was perhaps what we lacked before…. Without it, we risk diluting this integrity and this strong identity, which will be the element that will distinguish us in the future. ‘coming.”
Before Steele, several high-profile designers, including Walter Albini and Franco Moschino, helped the brand establish its aesthetic of high-quality wearables with a refined color sensibility and minimal chic design.
With a renewed product offering and image, as well as increased activity in terms of distribution and partnerships, the brand is signaling a “freshness it has never experienced before,” said Clemenza, who forecasts sales will return to pre-pandemic levels this year. . In 2019, Aspesi achieved a turnover of 46 million euros, up 10% compared to the 2017-2019 period.
At the end of 2016, private equity firm Armònia SGR acquired a majority stake in the company through the Armònia Italy Fund vehicle.