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Close-Up Preview: Q&A with Andrea Panconesi, CEO, Luisa Via Roma

Ahead of this week’s Close-Up interview with the CEO of Florentine independent retailer Luisa Via Roma, Ian Wright reveals how Panconesi works with bloggers, buyers and young designers alike.

Have you started taking budget out of forward order and put it into resort and pre-fall collections?
No, we don’t know what we’re going to buy tomorrow, it just depends on what we like. We try to grow in each segment. We added childrenswear because my daughter is pregnant with her first child and we thought it was a good idea. Just because we are spending money of childrenswear doesn’t mean we are taking money out of womenswear or menswear – we just buy more.

Are your Sales getting smaller because you’re buying more intelligently each season?
No, they get bigger and bigger because you buy more and more. The more you buy, the more you sell but the more you have left over – it’s normal. After you buy and make mistakes with money from your own pocket you don’t do it again.

You stock some big brands, but what is your relationship like with smaller designers?
We do a lot to support and promote up-and-coming designers. We have a special team who search and promote the names – we are just as excited to buy a new up-and-coming designer as big designers. There’s a lot of satisfaction from helping them grow. We try to give all of them a chance and it’s up to them if they have talent and the personality. We don’t want to find something that has been done before.

We expect to have more difficulties with the new designers because they are not well organised, especially the British ones. But just because we have difficulties doesn’t mean we stop [stocking those brands].

Would you ever create your own Luisa Via Roma brand?
I don’t see the point. There are so many designers, we don’t need to compete with them. I think everybody should do their own job and do it well. We are retailers and we want to be retailers. We don’t have any need to become designers of a new line or private label.

Is there a boom in Italian production?
Sure. There is no comparison in quality – our clients don’t want Chinese made products. They want made in Italy because they know the difference in quality.

How important is Pitti to the success of your business?
Each city has one saint - in Florence we have two. We have San Giovanni, the saint of the city of Florence and we have San Pitti. Fashion started in Florence in the way we know it now. It started in 1950, 51, and 52 in the Sala Bianca in Palazzo Pitti when Giorgini had the clever idea to create a little maison to display the collection all together and invite the American department stores  to look at the collections. That’s how Italian fashion started in terms of distribution and prêt-à-porter.

Pitti is the first exhibition in the season and that forced us to be the first ones in the world to display the new collections. Now everyone in the city has the new collections, [whereas] before it was just me. At first people laughed but now I see with pleasure how they’re enjoying the new season’s products [early]. Fashion is a birth, life and death each season.

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