MILAN — In the span of a few years Sease has become a niche label for those Millennial wealthy bankers and entrepreneurs in the know.
Its mix of heritage and sartorial elements blended with performance features — a result of blending the Loro Piana brothers’ knowledge of luxury fabrics and their passion for sports — is now taking the brand to new heights, literally.
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“The brand’s DNA is defined by passions and hobbies with a strong outdoors-y soul. Our product offering tries to reflect that and build an emotional link with consumers. I see Sease clothing as ‘travel buddies,’” said Franco Loro Piana, who launched the label in 2018 with his brother, Giacomo. He had previously worked at his family’s luxury textile company until it was sold to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton for 2 billion euros in 2013.
Given all its performance features befitting skiers and sailors, Sease has a natural resort inclination, Loro Piana said. It resonates with the brand’s most recent retail push centered on high-end ski destinations, including Verbier and Courchevel, where the brand is opening units in tandem with local retailers.
After opening a Sease flagship in St. Moritz in 2019 and starting a collaboration with Aspen retailer Gorsuch that same year, the siblings sensed the potential of luxury winter gateways was the natural next step for the brand’s retail rollout.
The new units, both spanning around 645 square feet, were designed following the blueprint of the Milan store, first opened in 2018 and relocated earlier this year to tony Via Montenapoleone. They blend natural materials, including teak wood and upholstered furniture, with carbon fiber elements and a graphic palette centered around glazed metallic colors.
Opening this month, they bow in partnership with retailers Bernard Orcel in Courchevel as a one-year pop-up and with Zero in Verbier, following the same strategy tested in Gstaad, where Sease opened a shop-in-shop at Lorenz Bach. In the latter resort location, the brand is evaluating opening a freestanding unit next year.
Marking these openings, Sease is unveiling a skiwear capsule collection for women, an unexplored segment so far.
It comprises performance-leaning puffers including “Vampire 2.0,” a jacket crafted from cashmere and bio-based nylon treated to be water resistant, breathable and wind-breaking, as well as hero men’s pieces, including the cashmere “C-Blazer,” worked into feminine silhouettes. Similarly to the men’s skiwear range, it is available on Sease’s e-commerce and at its flagship stores.
“We’ll see how customers will react to the capsule. Sease’s products are versatile, combining performance and elegance. Urban retailers may want to tap into it and if they do, we could potentially structure the company to explore womenswear as well,” he said.
A similar retail strategy geared at summer locales is also in the cards, with plans for units in St. Tropez and Portofino, to flank the existing banner in Porto Cervo. The brand’s fourth store, opened in 2020, is in São Paulo.
With a tight distribution network of around 70 accounts — including Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Saks, The Webster and Harry Rosen, as well as Mytheresa, Mr Porter, Beymen, Modes, Luisa Via Roma and Browns — the brand is building its midterm retail strategy.
Loro Piana is particularly eager to expand the brand’s footprint in the U.S., with a first directly operated store in a key city such as New York to open by the end of 2024.
“The U.S. is our most important target market…even though it is technically not the strongest one. We do have our biggest wholesalers there, but we’re lagging on the urban, city front,” he said.
A recent tie-up with Bergdorf Goodman and Saks online, in addition to Neiman Marcus and specialty shops, is boosting visibility but brand awareness is still a work-in-progress, especially in the urbanwear arena.
“At the moment the bulk of our business in the traditional and contemporary segments is in Europe,” the executive said. He mentioned Germany and the Netherlands as among the key countries in the region, with Spain and the U.K. rapidly picking up.
Globally “our goal is to cement our wholesale network with high-end stores willing to spotlight the brand and its lifestyle with synergistic initiatives, as far as considering concessions,” he said.
“We want to keep distribution tight as I feel you can ignite growth with just a few retailers, fueling their sales and adding only some in key areas,” including department stores such as Selfridges and Printemps, he offered.
Asia comes next in the strategy, he said.
“The current climate, with the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the overall geopolitical context, has reduced our appetite to explore those markets….China is too uncertain to make any move,” he said.
However, last year the brand linked with Holiday Project, an Asian retail venture that is opening brand pop-ups in Chinese and Hong Kong malls.
Representing 20 percent of the business, Sease’s e-commerce platform is also a strong growth avenue, with double-digit increases registered year-over-year.
“It’s a great opportunity for a brand like Sease which cannot open 100 stores globally in the short-term,” he said. “With just 25 to 30 flagships in the world within five years and a strong omnichannel structure you can achieve ‘critical’ sales.”
He declined to provide 2021 figures or forecasts for the current year, but pointed to robust growth in the 2020 to 2022 period and let slip that he expects to post sales in the low-double-digit region for 2023.
“The brand perception is greater than our revenues; there’s a lot of untapped potential to be explored. It’s among the few brands that can combine heritage and traditional men’s tropes with performance, and this is especially appreciated whenever customers visit our stores,” he said, pointing to a high rate of return clients.
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