Ravarino Trip 2010 – Part 3: Milan Showroom & Meeting Carlo Rivetti

The Showroom is set back off a side street so isn’t the easiest of places to find if you don’t have someone with you who has been there before. Unlike the HQ in Ravarino or the dyeing factory in Modena this facility is very post-modern and state of the art. It is a little like going to a supersized Beak St – there are video walls, lots of empty space and everything very bright and clean-cut. It’s clearly designed to be a very flexible space and to be able to accommodate large numbers of people if needs be.

Carlo and Silvio , who had already been with us at lunch also came to the Showroom and during our visit we were also joined by Carlo’s wife, Sabina. As you arrive there is a large Reception counter so you can’t quite see what lies behind but once we went round the corner we were greeted by the video displays and full size mannequins featuring some of the key pieces from the SS ’11 collection. Each one had an iPad in front of it providing the product description.

In the second half of the Showroom was pretty much the full collection for SS ’11. It is unlikely one ever gets the chance to actually see the entire collection for any given season and although not every colourway for each piece was on display it was quite something to see all the pieces racked up along 3 sides of the building. The Shadow Project was on a separate rail and the kids collection again housed in a different part of the Showroom.

We were allowed to wander and browse the pieces for about an hour or so at which time we realised it was time to head off or we were going to be in severe danger of missing the flight back to London – in fact we only just made it to the Check-In desks in time. We finished the visit with another group pic and then farewells all round with the Rivetti’s. They had been fantastic hosts.

Some Final Images from the Trip

 In Conversation with Carlo Rivetti

As per my first post, I was lucky enough to get a fair bit of time talking with Carlo at lunch – some of the highlights of that conversation and from the tour round the HQ below:

One interesting anecdote included identifying his favourite SI jacket which is the Pure Metal Shell pieces as the development of this fabric took some 18 months – they had to track down a manufacturer of a piece of fabric they had discovered which had steel sprayed on it, thereby avoiding the cracking problem they encountered with the iconic woven Stainless Steel fabric. After much searching across the world they eventually discovered the producer in Japan. At first the Japanese were not very interested in developing a fabric but eventually agreed to produce a sample – it was a great success back in the SPW lab so they returned to Japan to ask for 17km of the fabric – the Japanese owner was so amazed his initial response was “How many planes are you making??” When he saw the prototype metal jacket he was astonished – Carlo and he are now close friends. We later spotted the Nokia Metal Shell in the Archive which was the specific jacket he was thinking of.

I asked Carlo how the business was performing – Stone Island is apparently doing well, especially in Japan/Asia – there are no plans to focus on specific new countries although Carlo has been spending a lot of time in China as they believe there could be potential success there but appear to be having some challenges “educating” buyers about the Stone Island offering. They will focus on the existing core centres of Italy, Germany, Holland and UK for the immediate future. I asked Carlo about N America but he dismissed it on the basis that “they don’t get it”. Apparently some US retailers had sent back Ice Jackets claiming they were faulty as the colour of them changed…

Given CP was the founding basis for the modern SPW firm I asked if he was sorry to lose the brand. He was quite clear that it was a decision for the best and he was only interested in the future and focused solely on Stone Island. CP had been losing money heavily and was in danger of dragging the whole company down – I got the impression he felt reviving CP would be a very difficult task for the new owners. He did admit that he felt they had lost their way with CP a while ago so that it had become a brand which was following trends rather than setting them. Certainly there was little evidence of sentimental attachment around the offices although the odd CP sailor logo appeared in various places – in general though, CP has been “removed” from the buildings.

In terms of future direction for SI, there is no intention to expand the range or number of items per collection, nor does he intend to expand the Shadow Project The aim is to be very focused on the quality and innovation that goes into every SI piece. He has been asked to develop a Women’s range but he will never agree although he thinks when women do wear a Small sized piece they often look sensational! We did catch sight of an interesting couple of boxes in one room labelled “Stone Island Evolution +” but Carlo wouldn’t discuss the contents so safe to say there is something interesting going on there.

He is very keen on the Liquid Reflective from the current season (although he doesn’t have one for himself as they were all sold before he had a chance to get one!) – the blue version was hanging up in the HQ reception area – but admitted they had been unable to successfully produce a black edition which remains an ambition. I get the feeling they will keep trying until they succeed on that one.

There was a fascinating discussion about future fabric developments – I was pushing the integrated technology angle at lunch and he admitted that nanotechnology was of great interest to him as is wireless – there was more than a suggestion that wireless might be a feature of near future pieces which presumably could allow the fabric to display all manner of things.

There was a brief discussion about counterfeiters and grey market – Carlo said it was extremely difficult to combat them and very resource-draining but they were doing what they could to crack down – Italian law appears to make it quite difficult for rights owners, strangely enough. They do seem to have been focusing some efforts on Stone Island Store.com who seem to have particularly annoyed them with their operation. 

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