This morning we embarked on a retail tour of Milan lead by Valentina, our guide. We were able to get a glimpse of what it's like to work inside these luxury companies and as business students, gain more knowledge and insight of how the luxury industry functions.
To begin our tour we strolled the streets of Milan, taking in the beauty and uniqueness of every "corso." We arrived at a small opening in a building and walked through an arch-like structure. This was the entrance to Antonio Marras concept store, which resembled nothing like a typical retail store. When we walked through the arch we came to a garden strewn with vines on the brick facade of one of the buildings. Adjacent to that structure was the store itself, with one wall of floor to ceiling glass windows.
Inside was a hidden gem. The store was brightly colored and uniquely designed. From the store manager, Anna, we learned that Antonio wanted the store to be as comfortable to customers as their own living room. The vintage furniture was inviting and open for business meetings or a chat with friends. His goal was to make the experiences there more than just about shopping. Inside the store were many books and inspiration from artists.
I absolutely fell in love with this store and its philosophy. Although the fashion pieces were way out of my current budget, I was ecstatic to buy a picture book of "the alphabet of Milan." Basically, it is a book showing different letters of the alphabet that can be seen in the structure of buildings in Milan.
After leaving Antonio Marras and snacking on gelato on the way, we found ourselves at a Dolce & Gabbana store focused on made-to-measure suits. The only one of its kind, this extreme luxury store focuses on personalization and customization of Dolce & Gabbana suits. The aesthetic of the store screams high class and luxury. Clients schedule appointments where they are treated like royalty. The typical appointment lasts around four hours, and involves an initial analysis of the client's needs, a dressing and fitting, and then the suit pieces are brought to the tailor where they will be altered in six to seven weeks.
The entire environment here is all about experience, the cost of the suits are anywhere between €3,300 and €27,000 and therefore the clients are high profile and expect a lot of extra care.
From Dolce & Gabbana we visited Fontana Couture. Hetty Bankamp, the head of commercial at Fontana, greeted us and brought us to their showroom. There were pictures of models on the wall and racks of current collections.
The 50's formal style was very Jackie Kennedy-esque which I enjoyed. This one particular pink coat really caught my eye. Hetty was a very honest woman, she explained that Fontana has a very particular client base and that fashion is struggling. With fast fashion brands taking over the industry, many higher-end brands are suffering, including Fontana. Since it isn't a well-known brand, it is difficult to sell at high prices without the recognizability of brands like Armani or Dolce & Gabbana.
Her honesty about the fashion industry was refreshing and eye-opening.
From Fontana we went to the Brian and Barry Building, a twelve story building home to 3 restaurants, a lounge bar, a Sephora, market, jewelry store and Brian and Barry stores.
After enjoying a great meal at one of the Eataly restaurants inside, Rossopomodoro, we toured all twelve floors and got a feel for the building. It was an interesting concept, vertical shopping. It made me wonder if it would be as successful in the U.S.
The last store on our tour was in the center of Milan, and is world famous. 10 Corso Como was a multi-floor concept store with a rooftop garden that was absolutely stunning. The eclectic styles inside the store were reflected in an art gallery on one floor and a book store on another. I was tempted to buy another book, but decided against it in the end.
We made our way back to the hotel and changed to depart for the Inter Milan vs. Bologna fútbol match, a perfect end to a great day. (Especially since Inter won!!)