Renzo Rosso talks about Marni’s “coolness” and her institutional roles – WWD
MILAN — “Marni is cool.”
The freshness is indeed praise for Renzo Rosso and the entrepreneur couldn’t be happier with Marni’s positioning and appeal right now.
Ahead of his trip to New York, where the Italian brand is hosting a fashion show for the first time on Saturday night, Rosso raved about the work done so far by creative director Francesco Risso.
“I’m a big fan of Francesco, he rejuvenated Marni, bringing in a new Gen Z customer, turning it into a very modern and young brand,” Rosso observed. “He understood Marni right away, whereas it usually takes two to three years to assimilate the DNA of a label.”
Marni has a strong business in the United States and Risso is a magnet for rappers, Rosso said. Many fans and celebrities of the brand are expected at the show, ranging from Iann Dior, Flo Milli and Tokischia to Kerwin Frost and Gracie Abrams. “He speaks their language, he involves them as part of the brand, and personalization has become a big part of Marni.”
Risso turned to musical director Dev Hynes for the show’s soundtrack.
As noted, many attendees at Marni’s New York fashion show will be sporting the brand, thanks to a trove of archival articles that Decades founder and luxury brand consultant Cameron Silver has already begun to pre- sale.
Risso’s collections are “brave”, continued Rosso, and, in addition to his creativity, he is “a talent in merchandising, as a photographer and a stylist”, envying the way the designer is in tune with “the world reality”.
So much so that the idea is that Marni’s shows be itinerant, after New York. “We can bring energy and be closer to local customers. Marni is a global brand, but we also want to be close to the local culture and create products for specific local markets.
Risso joined Marni in 2016, unveiling her first collection for the brand’s fall 2017 season, and succeeding the brand’s artistic director, Consuelo Castiglioni. In 2015, Rosso’s OTB Group took full control of Marni, three years after acquiring a 61% stake in the Italian fashion company.
Risso, whose past experiences include the Prada Group and earlier stints with Anna Molinari, Alessandro Dell’Acqua and Malo, brought contrasting prints, vibrant colors, deconstructed silhouettes, generous volumes and asymmetrical cuts to Marni. . The designer, who is also drawn to surrealism, often injects naïve or grungy vibes into the looks, which have a youthful and rebellious attitude.
While OTB does not break down revenue by brand, market sources peg Marni’s sales at over 220 million euros, recording double-digit growth.
There are currently 90 Marni stores worldwide and Rosso is investing in additional units around the world.
During Salone del Mobile, Marni unveiled a new store concept with a striking flagship in Milan’s Via Montenapoleone reflecting Risso’s unique vision and aesthetic, as shown. The plan, which will be mirrored in other stores around the world, is still being refined as Rosso’s intention is for the interiors to show how the brand is becoming “even more luxury”.
The new Milan headquarters of Marni and Jil Sander, also controlled by OTB, should be completed in early 2025, to be located opposite the stadium and the Olympic Village, “in a fantastic and strategic position”.
The agreement for the new locations was signed between Rosso’s Red Circle investment vehicle and COIMA, together investing in a sprawling building complex covering approximately 216,000 square feet in the Porta Romana district, increasingly a favorite of the fashion industry, and with sustainability and ESG criteria at the center of the project. American studio Kohn Pedersen Fox will design the complex, and two new buildings will be erected in place of the five existing industrial structures.
“Milan is going through a magical moment of transformation and development. It’s buzzing in preparation for the Winter Olympics in 2026,” Rosso said.
Marni’s business is strong in Korea, China and Japan, and new stores in Seoul, Tokyo and Miami’s Design District are opening. Rosso was excited about the “mega” store opened in Shanghai. The Italian fashion group opened a major retail development project at the city’s JC Plaza shopping center on Nanjing Road earlier this year. The four-story, two-storey store houses the Maison Margiela, Jil Sander, Marni and Amiri brands, and includes exhibition spaces and interactive zones. OTB controls Margiela, in addition to Viktor & Rolf and Diesel, and has a minority stake in Los Angeles-based Amiri.
The JC Plaza store is Jil Sander’s first flagship store in Shanghai, and the first in China to open after the brand was acquired by OTB in 2021.
Marni menswear is growing strongly, and the Milan store sells more of this category than womenswear, Rosso noted.
The brand is doing particularly well in the US – and a collaboration with Kith is now in stores across the region – but Rosso said the US market is responding very well to all OTB brands.
He also touched on Diesel’s progress. “What happens at Diesel is magical thanks to [creative director] Glenn [Martens], beyond my expectations,” he said of the brand, which in July welcomed a new general manager, Eraldo Poletto, succeeding Massimo Piombini. Drawing on his experience in the industry, as former CEO of Salvatore Ferragamo and Stuart Weitzman, Poletto will bring “solidity” and leverage Marten’s creativity to further develop the business, which last year represented 45% of total OTB sales.
Fashion is Rosso’s daily bread, but he increasingly takes on institutional roles. Last year, Confindustria, Italy, the largest association representing 150,000 national manufacturing and service companies, asked Rosso to be the association’s delegate for the excellence, beauty and taste of Italian brands. He is a member of the steering committee of the Italian Camera della Moda and the Ministry of Tourism and ENIT, the national tourism agency, selected Rosso among others such as chef Massimo Bottura, Olympic swimmer Federica Pellegrini and ballet star Roberto Bolle as ambassador. of Italy in #LiveItalian, the new global institutional campaign that promotes the country and its beauty around the world.
Rosso has long been a supporter of Prime Minister Mario Draghi and expressed disappointment at his resignation in July. When asked if he’d ever thought about going straight into politics, Rosso said “some of the most important political figures in this country” have expressed interest in having him on board, but he has until now refused. “It’s too difficult for my mentality, I want to be able to decide and act and in politics it’s not always allowed.” However, Rosso embraces his more public role. “I like this kind of exhibition, because it allows me to showcase the beauty of Italy,” he said.
He admitted that during the summer holidays that had just passed, he had been engrossed in current affairs, ahead of the general election on September 25, at the end of Milan Fashion Week. “I have never followed an election campaign as much as this one, I was on vacation and I checked daily what the political leaders were saying but I find that in general they rely on slogans to get votes but there is limited knowledge of the issues at hand. For example, they talk about education, they claim that teachers should be hired, investments should be made, but they don’t really explain how they would develop the schools There are reforms to be done before that, thorough research needs to be done, and education is absolutely the first thing to tackle, it impacts everything else Too often schools are not international and not enough connected to reality and business development, there must be more interaction between schools and industry.We need a simple, but concrete and targeted vision, and not just handing over money. “
His hope is that the new government “aligns with European and American international realities, it is very important. And whoever wins should surround himself with competent people.
As the price of raw materials and energy rises, particularly affecting small and medium-sized businesses and artisans, he said one solution is to connect the pipeline directly to businesses, which can take on and bear some of the costs, integrating the supply chain. .
Rosso was one of the key members of the Italian Fashion Chamber in talks with the Italian government to receive funding of up to €3 billion as part of an immediate response to support all small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Asked about it, he said he had not yet seen any funds allocated to the association. “In fact, after the fall of the government, a tax on research and development was reinstated,” he lamented.
The strong dollar can be a positive contribution to OTB, given its international business, but Rosso admitted that it is “not good for the economy. I don’t think that’s the true positioning of the euro, I hope it finds a new balance.
While acknowledging the challenging macro environment, Rosso said OTB was in growth mode and he believed costs “won’t be as excessive six months from now,” a forecast he made based on the overview he gets by regularly investing in the Stock Exchange. “Raw materials will be cheaper in the coming months,” he said.
A public listing is in the cards for OTB, as noted, and Rosso has confirmed that the group is looking at late 2024 or early 2025 as possible IPO windows. “All of our managers are aiming to achieve our goals but we will go public when the time comes,” he said.
In the meantime, Rosso continues “to evaluate the many files that are on our desk”, which range from “big brands but also from the best craftsmen”. In the latter, OTB would only take a minority stake providing the technology, infrastructure, safety net and general group support to grow its business.
Rosso didn’t specify the potential targets, but said there were “not a lot of really good brands to buy, and what’s good is unfortunately not for sale.”