Italian footwear brand DTC Velasca launches menswear line – WWD
MILAN — After building a strong business in men’s footwear, Milan-based direct-selling footwear brand Velasca is ready to tackle ready-to-wear.
Exactly one year after doubling its offer with the introduction of women’s shoes, the brand created in 2013 by Enrico Casati and Jacopo Sebastio takes another important step in the rise of its business by unveiling a complete line of clothing dedicated to women. men.
The project has been in the pipeline for some time and has significant potential given that the brand has built up a loyal following over the past decade, now numbering around 170,000 customers.
“Be a [d-to-c] brand comes with benefits. One is the price because we can apply a unique margin that is much more competitive compared to other brands because we have no intermediation…. The second is ownership of the relationship with our consumers. We know each of our customers exactly,” said Sebastio, emphasizing the value of such a database.
The pandemic has further propelled this one-on-one approach, as Velasca has taken advantage of the crisis to broaden its marketing beyond just promoting its shoes, moving towards broader storytelling on different pillars of the Italian lifestyle, ranging from cinema to cooking. Likewise, the company has worked with stylists to provide clients with total look style advice, which “started with the feet up”.
“So consumers started asking where they could find these particular pants, sweaters, or shirts, and we saw an opportunity…that is, to offer our customers other Made products. in Italy,” said Sebastio, highlighting the possibility of increasing the average purchase of the same customers as well.
True to its original mission of connecting Italian artisans to global consumers, Velasca relied on local suppliers for ready-to-wear. Determined to take advantage of a short supply chain and add value to different districts across the country, he appealed to artisan manufacturers scattered across different regions, ranging from Puglia for shirts and Campania for trousers to Veneto for outdoor clothing, among others.
“In addition to the shoe district of Montegranaro [in the Marche region], we humbly wanted to try to support other districts as well,” confirmed Sebastio, whose business recently became a B Corporation. “To be honest, for us it is not only important to talk about the environmental impact, which is a subject often subject to greenwashing, but about the social that we want to have,” he said of this recognition. of business.
Before being produced by local factories, Velasca’s key garments were designed by an in-house design team, while premium fabrics in cotton, denim, linen and wool were sourced from different specialists in the country. These included companies such as Albini, Candiani, Zegna Baruffa, Canclini and Lanecardate, to name a few.
In total, the first collection includes 200 items, divided into five categories to offer a total look: outerwear, knitwear, shirts and T-shirts, sweatshirts and pants.
The collection reflects the brand’s philosophy of an elegant and understated aesthetic, favoring simple designs and attention to materials over logos and prints. Highlights include double-breasted coats; Shetland wool military jackets; classic padded raincoats; merino wool and pleated polo shirts, carrot pants in different shades, among others. Prices range from 60 euros for t-shirts to around 550 euros for outerwear.
Launched on the brand’s e-commerce site, the range will make its debut in the new Velasca boutique which will open on October 24 on Via Mercato, in the Brera district of Milan. It will be the first flagship dedicated to the total look of the brand since it will also present a selection of shoes.
“We are lucky because we will have a quick feedback from our consumers, so we will understand quite quickly if this ready-to-wear project works. We will take advantage of these last three months of the year to collect the first data and understand what is the best strategy for the future”, said Sebastio about the future distribution strategy of the clothing line.
“It will definitely be a mix of three forces: our e-commerce; the opening of new stores dedicated to this new format, and a redesign of existing units,” added the co-founder, who was rightly zooming in from a store in Brescia “to see if we have enough space to do just that” and welcome the ready-to-wear line.
Currently, Velasca has 19 outlets, 16 of which are stand-alone stores. These include three international flagships in London, Paris and New York, where the brand last year opened a menswear unit at NoLIta.
Last month, Velasca also launched its first corner at Rinascente in Milan, which Sebastio described as a “pilot project that works very well, so the idea is to develop this format as well”.
In addition to the new Milan flagship, Velasca will open a store in Rome, dedicated to the collection of women’s shoes.
Certainly, for the launch of the women’s line last year, Velasca – which has two private investors, P101 and MIP Sgr – created a different version of its logo, developed new graphics and designed a different store concept. The brand strategy is to continue this and differentiate the two divisions in all aspects, from separate brick and mortar and e-commerce units to different social media accounts and newsletters.
“So far this is proving to be a winning strategy. The idea is to personalize the experience and the communication according to the target,” said Sebastio.
While a womenswear line isn’t on the cards for the foreseeable future, the co-founder said the brand will continue to invest in growing the womenswear line – and building a base. solid data like for men – as well as focus on global brand growth.
Domestic market sales account for 62% of total revenue, which was €12.8 million last year, up about 60% from 2020. The online channel currently accounts for 55% of sales total, which Sebastio expects to reach 20 million euros. end of 2022.
After Italy, the United States and France are the best performing markets, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany and Northern European countries.
“In addition to consolidating distribution in Italy, for the offline channel, Germany could be an interesting country to open stores,” Sebastio said, noting that the country is similar to Italy because the population is not not concentrated in a few cities. He mentioned Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Hamburg as suitable choices for store openings.
“The United States also has potential, that’s for sure. We are just in New York and this city alone could easily accommodate two more Velasca stores. And Paris too, with all its different districts,” he added.
While Velasca has made a name for itself in men’s shoes mainly through high-quality formal shoe models at affordable prices ranging on average from 180 euros to 320 euros, the women’s offer is more casual. Several men’s models were redesigned with a women’s fit, but new footwear options were also introduced, such as equestrian boots and more feminine flat mary janes.
Sales of women’s footwear currently represent 15-20% of the total and are driven by a target audience that ranges from university students to “partners of our male customers,” Sebastio said.
Mainly between the ages of 35 and 45, Velasca’s male target is primarily “lawyers, bankers and consultants, who buy the brand for its formal styles – sales of which have fully recovered since last month – but also choose it for their casual moments”. Namely, during the lockdowns, the company has invested in developing more informal styles, including loafers, boat shoes for summer, and ankle boots for winter. The move proved critical not only to offset losses caused by smart working and the closure of its physical stores, but also to prove consumer loyalty to the brand.
“On average, our male customer buys four pairs of Velasca shoes. Since we’re not sneaker specialists, we did a good job,” concludes Sebastio with a smile.