Apr 10, 2023

Roberto Cavalli Kicks Off Wild Leda Summer in London

MILAN — The Roberto Cavalli brand is revisiting the house's spring 2023 print, Wild Leda, as a capsule collection celebrated through a series of events. The Wild Leda Summer will kick off in London, where the brand is teaming with Selfridges to install a dedicated pop-up store on the second floor, starting from Thursday for four weeks.

"We wanted to offer something unexpected, without abiding to the conventional dates and with a pervasive visibility, and catch people off-guard, and what better place than Selfridges?" said chief executive officer Sergio Azzolari in his first interview since joining the brand at the end of March. Azzolari underscored the brand's focus on a lifestyle concept and not on single products, but rather "with an idea and an ideal that can be traced back to the past."

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The bucolic scene of the capsule is inspired by the Leda and the Swan archival pattern originally designed by founder Roberto Cavalli in 1994. Conceived by creative director Fausto Puglisi, the Wild Leda seasonal capsule comprises ready-to-wear, beachwear, accessories — including the season's signature Roar Bag and Pettegole slingback shoes — as well as a selection of homeware and furniture pieces.

This marks the brand's entry into Selfridges, said Azzolari, and London was chosen "also in light of future developments; we have big plans for the city and this marks the beginning of a path and a bigger exposure to the direct to consumer platform."

On Thursday, the brand will also host a cocktail event at its flagship on Sloane Street.

A dedicated outdoor communication campaign — on taxis, for example — will grant more visibility to the project, he noted.

Selfridges’ two main windows facing Oxford Street will showcase the Wild Leda capsule with a surreal installation that will also inspire the decoration of one of the department store's restaurants, the Brasserie of Light, where the mythological inspiration of Wild Leda will meet that of Damien Hirst's Pegasus. For four weeks, the food destination will use customized Roberto Cavalli Home tableware, cushions and candles, and will offer a special menu designed in collaboration with the Italian brand.

Azzolari defined Selfridges as a store that is "cutting-edge, point of reference in the luxury shopping scene" and "a landmark destination where everyone is welcome — a creative playground in which to discover and share new ideas and that fits perfectly with the spirit of the Roberto Cavalli brand." He is aiming for a democratic and inclusive event, "a way to communicate the label in a different context."

Azzolari was previously CEO of Dsquared2. Incidentally, Cavalli's former general manager Ennio Fontana was named to that same role at Dsquared2 in March.

Before Dsquared2, which Azzolari led for less than a year, he was general manager of Fay and Hogan, owned by Tod's Group. He started his career at Benetton Group, balancing his fashion and retail roles with his professional rugby commitments. He then built his expertise holding executive roles at Missoni, Luxottica and Deckers Corp.

Azzolari aims to increase the availability of the Cavalli product, as he observed that "the brand awareness is bigger than the actual distribution of the product."

A new store will open in Las Vegas either at the end of the third quarter or in the fourth quarter and a unit will be unveiled in Los Angeles at the Beverly Center in the first quarter of 2024 — pointing to the importance of the American market for the brand. "There is an astronomical visibility of the brand in the U.S. thanks to Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Madonna [wearing Cavalli on tours], but this does not translate in availability of the garments," Azzolari said.

In November, Cavalli held an event celebrating the Wild Leda capsule at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami — a venue selected for its representation of the Renaissance in America.

There are 10 directly operated stores and four franchised doors. The goal is to open three additional direct stores by the end of the year. The brand is available at 150 wholesale accounts.

The company is also bringing its digital platform in-house by the fourth quarter.

Ready-to-wear accounts for 85 percent of sales, and Azzolari acknowledged the potential of the accessories category.

"I am calling this the phoenix operation, for the brand to be reborn," said Azzolari, who believes there is a strong loyal customer, but "little recruitment of new customers" has been done so far.

The company closed 2022 with revenues of more than 80 million euros and the executive said he expects strong double-digit growth in 2023.

The Wild Leda celebrations will continue through the summer with pop-up shops at both the label's boutiques in Milan, Rome, Miami, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, France, and Porto Cervo, Italy, and at selected partners, including LuisaViaRoma, Russo, Franzese, Parisi and Julian Fashion Milano Marittima.

Hussain Sajwani, founder and chairman of the Dubai-based Damac Properties, owns Cavalli through his private investment company Vision Investments, which bought the brand from Clessidra SGR in 2019.

Cavalli is designed by Puglisi, who joined the house in the fall of 2020, and it has been increasing its visibility also through the slew of celebrities, from Jennifer Lopez and Dua Lipa to Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani, who have been dressed in Cavalli.

The company last fall inked a new five-year license with De Rigo for the design, production and global distribution of Roberto Cavalli and Just Cavalli eyewear collections to bow this year.

The brand's previous eyewear licensing deal with Marcolin expired in 2020.

In September, the company formed a strategic partnership with Genny owner Swinger International for the production and wholesale distribution of the Just Cavalli sister line, which was managed under license until 2011 by Staff International, the OTB Group's production arm.

More support is coming from Sajwani, whose property development company Damac is planning a 70-story residential building located on the Dubai Marina, overlooking the Palm Jumeirah, called Cavalli Tower and to be furnished with items from the Roberto Cavalli home division. Another tower is planned in Dubai, as well as one in Miami.

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