Twinset Milano opened two stores in London this summer. CEO Alessandro Varisco tells Drapers why London, why now, and what the future holds for the Italian womenswear brand
Italian womenswear brand Twinset Milano made its London debut this summer, opening a 1,097 sq ft space on King’s Road in Chelsea on 25 July, and a 990 sq ft store in Westfield London’s premium The Village complex on 8 August.
Twinset Milano is owned by US private equity firm Carlyle Group. CEO Alessandro Varisco joined in 2015. He was most recently managing director of Moschino, and previously worked for Versace and Valentino. As well as spearheading international expansion, Varisco wants to expand its wholesale operations – it has 30 UK stockists, including Farfetch.
How would you sum up Twinset Milano?
Twinset Milano is cosmopolitan fashion with an Italian accent that playfully mixes romance and bohemia. We began our journey in knitwear, but our shoppers tell us they love the brand’s eclectic style, our vibrant prints and detailing. The many, carefully curated options we offer allow wearers to experiment and layer to make their look their own. What we’re trying to do is to create a luxury concept at affordable prices.
What has changed since you joined Twinset?
Italians have had a love affair with Twinset for 30 years and, when I joined, 70% of sales were in Italy. I was appointed by the Carlyle Group, and its ownership has fuelled our growth to become an international player. Today 55% of revenue comes from Italy and 45% from abroad. We also have 137 stores – including in Spain, the Benelux region, Russia, United Arab Emirates and, of course, two new stores in the UK.
Why open in London? And why now?
London is the most international place in the world for fashion. It is an important fashion hub – in both ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar retail. We’ve had ecommerce capabilities in Britain since September 2017 and we had a lot of requests to open a store from these customers. Also, our store managers, in Italy and Spain in particular, were telling us that visitors from London wanted us.
We think the British appreciate Italian design credentials and Italy’s passion for quality. All of our knitwear is crafted – as it always has been – in Carpi, Twinset’s birthplace, for example. We’ve already found that customers to the King’s Road store love our footwear and accessories, and within just a few days of opening we exceeded expectations on sales.
Why open two stores at once?
It was a combination of design and serendipity. We had wanted to open a store in London for some time, and then two fantastic retail spaces in areas of London that we feel are a great fit for our customer demographic became available around the same time – we’re an agile business and we wanted to capitalise on these opportunities.
Tell us about the King’s Road store
Chelsea’s King’s Road has such a rich history in fashion – the swinging 1960s, punk – and actually our location has become a “Little Italy”. We have many friends in Italian fashion around us, and you can even combine shopping with superb gelato at Venchi.
The interior is light, elegant and understated to ensure our vibrant textiles and accessories sing. At the moment we have our pre-autumn 18 collection in situ, and the main collection will begin to land from the end of August. We want to give plenty of reasons for shoppers to keep coming in, and also to test ranges and concepts so we get to know our London customers better. We take our customer service very seriously – you can expect a warm welcome, very Italian in essence.
What is unique about British shoppers?
The British are much more individual and confident in their style than in many other countries – they’re not afraid to mix things up.
Do you plan more UK stores?
If the right location and opportunity arises, for sure.
What are your plans for the near future?
We are set on ramping up our digital efforts and marketing overall to ensure our customers know we’ve arrived. We have “twin” supermodel friends Georgia May Jagger and Suki Waterhouse starring in our “Ciao London” advertising campaign, shot in Chelsea.
We are also keen to evolve our wholesale concept. I’ve spent some time streamlining this part of the business to ensure our partners are in line with Twinset Milano brand ambitions.