Colette, 10 Corso Como, Dover Street Market, fashion retail's changing landscape

The doyenne of Parisian concept stores, Colette, has announced it will close down in December, and its Milanese counterpart 10 Corso Como is also about to turn over a new leaf. Founded in 1990 by Carla Sozzani, the renowned concept store has struggled in recent years, coming very close to bankruptcy in 2015 and being recently threatened with eviction. But the temple of Italian fashion has found a saviour.


A new chapter is beginning for 10 Corso Como - DR

Two saviours, actually: the founders of Italian fashion label Twin-Set, businessman Tiziano Sgarbi and designer Simona Barbieri. Having sold their label to the Carlyle investment fund, the duo is now ready for a new adventure. As reported this week on corriere.it, Barbieri and Sgarbi have taken control, for just under €30 million, of the property company which owns the 3,000 sq m location that is home to 10 Corso Como.

"We have no intention of changing the format. We simply wish to modernise it, and we hope to be able to keep the name '10 Corso Como'. As for the photography exhibition gallery and the cult fashion and accessories boutique, we would like to enter into a partnership with Carla Sozzani," Tiziano Sgarbi told corriere.it.

"Instead, there will be a new management for the restaurant, bar, bookshop and hotel," added Sgarbi, who leads the Abraham Industries fashion group (formerly Liviana Conti), which owns the Erika Cavallini, Circus hotel, SemiCouture and Liviana Conti labels.

BROKEN MODEL?

The model of the eclectic fashion concept store, as it was developed about 20 years ago, clearly seems to be threatened now. The advent of e-tail has rocked the boat significantly, with the rise in influence of luxury multibrand e-stores like Net-A-Porter and Matchesfashion, which are hugely successful thanks to their instant worldwide accessibility, making them much more attractive to fashion labels than traditional multibrand stores.

Labels, all of them now with their own e-stores alongside brick-and-mortar retail, have fully understood this, and are signing scores of 'exclusive collaborations' with fashion e-tailers, giving them global visibility. The same goes for emerging designers. In the past, they relied on the shop windows of Colette or other elite boutiques to make a name for themselves, while nowadays it is all about striking one-off deals with fashion e-tailers positioned in the premium designer segment, like Mytheresa or L’Exception.

"We are living through a very delicate situation. More than by the economic crisis, in the last few years fashion has been hit by the violent shocks rippling through the distribution industry. The boom of e-commerce combined with the difficulties facing department stores are upending the system," said Franco Pené, the boss of Onward Luxury Group, owner among others of Jil Sander and fashion retailer Joseph.

Ercole Botto Poala, President of the Milano Unica trade show, spoke along the same lines on Tuesday, as he opened the Italian textile industry's event, which has brought forward its second session from September to July this year, to adjust to the market's seismic changes. "The distribution landscape is in the midst of a radical transformation. If we do not take appropriate measures right now, especially by investing more in technology, we run the risk of losing the battle," he warned.

Some players however seem to be thriving. Dover Street Market, the directional multibrand concept created by Comme des Garçons, which is about to open a new store in Los Angeles, after those in London, Tokyo and New York. This concept store too has adopted a strategy based on collaborations, opening a spate of pop-up stores within its branches, the latest by Fendi.

Others have instead gone down the digital road early on, such as renowned Florentine boutique Luisaviaroma, which HAS operateD a web store since 1999. Nowadays, e-tail accounts for 95% of its total revenue, which in 2016 reached nearly €130 million. And it has recently launched a series of collaborations with major Italian fashion names such as Sergio Rossi and Dolce & Gabbana.
 

Translated by Nicola Mira

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