A Interview with Alba de Marinis, PR & Communication Director for US Operations, by Wyatt Bertz.
Peserico is an upscale women’s fashion brand. Founded in Italy in 1962, it continues to design and manufacture all its products in the region where it was created. “Democratic Luxury” is the term that Alba de Marinis, PR & Communication Director for US operations, uses when describing the vibe of the company’s offerings. “We envision our pieces for a strong, elegant woman. The colors, fabrics and designs are very European and very classic. They are not inexpensive (pants start around $300) but Peserico products are not at the astronomical prices of some of our competitors.”
The “independent woman” target consumer is deeply embedded in the brand’s DNA. Peserico has been family owned and operated since it was founded by Maria Peserico. “It was impressive,” Alba says. “Maria previously worked for Valentino and other Italian fashion houses - she was a woman, she’d always had a job, and she decided to leave everything to start her own company.” Maria started in the basement of her own apartment, using a few sewing machines and the help of friends. Within a few years she “became famous.”
Today, Maria's son, Riccardo Peserico Perrufo, heads the company along with his wife, Paola Gonella. “Traditional roots” define the company - nearly 100% of the products are manufactured in Cornedo Vincentino, the same town where the company was founded (the only exception are some of the knits, which are still made elsewhere in Italy). Riccardo has expanded the company’s product line (Peserico was previously known for, and maintains, its mastery of form in womens’ pants), but the same principles of simple European classicism, couples with the brand’s deep connection to the region where it was born, define the style and marketing of the products.
Today, Peserico has more than 100 employees at its base in Cornedo Vincentino and more than 13 flagship retail stores worldwide. They’re actively expanding globally, but I talked to Alba more about the brand’s expansion in New York, and how Peserico manages to balance its attention to tradition with the demands of a fast-paced modern marketplace. We chatted in Peserico’s new showroom at 110 Greene Street in SoHo, where Alba works with Anita Bernardi, Peserico USA’s Wholesale Director. The showroom is an open space of about 2200 square feet that still evokes the building’s factory past -
concrete floors, raw high ceilings, huge windows with sweeping views of all downtown Manhattan. The room was designed minimally and tastefully by the brand’s architect, and clothing racks holding the collection - mostly understated shades of blue, gray, beige and white, in sumptuous-looking fabrics and the occasional classic pattern - line the perimeter of the room.
Wyatt Bertz: Can you tell us a little more about Peserico for people who are not familiar with it?
Alba de Marinis: The important thing about the company is that for over 50 years it’s been family-owned. Riccardo Peruffo, our COO, and his wife Paola Gonella - they are second-generation family ownership - have really developed the diversity of the brand, but they remain extremely attached to, and proud of, the territory where the brand originated. Of course everything is 100% made in Italy. The quality of our product is reflected in many details. One thing we’re popular for is our own shade of blue, “Peserico blue.” It’s kind of like blue with a little bit of grey. (Alba goes to a rack and returns with a simple, elegant sweater in a blue several shades lighter than navy). You can see that we have added some color to this collection which is not necessarily the norm for our brand. There is some raspberry, and also Verona Green, “Veroneza” in
Italian (the green is earthy and light). It’s named for the painter Paolo Veronese who was very active in the region where our brand is based. Traditionally we do not offer too many bright colors but you can see this is an example where the addition of an exciting color really relates to our regional identity. At the same time, it is progressive and current. It's similar to Pantone’sColor of the Year for 2017, “greenery.” Even when we have photoshoots we try to keep them in that region. It’s very important to us to send
that message, to demonstrate our identity.
WB: We’re sitting in Peserico’s beautiful new showroom in SoHo. You moved into this space in November. How do you like it?
ADM: We were previously in a space we shared with other brands and we outgrew it. This location really makes sense for the showroom. SoHo is very well-connected and everybody is familiar with it - when our buyers visit, this location is very convenient for them.
WB: You’re also actively seeking retail space to open Peserico’s first flagship boutique in New York City.
ADM: Yes, we are opening our first Hamptons boutique this summer in East Hampton (48 Newtown Lane - be sure to visit). We thought the town was perfect for the sort of “final customer” we envision. In Manhattan, we are looking mostly in the Madison Avenue area.
WB: Retail is experiencing issues right now. Rents crept up over the past couple years and now are falling as brick-and-mortar retailers face competition from online outlets. Yet Peserico is very actively expanding. How are you undeterred by a slowdown that’s affecting even retail titans?
ADM: For one, we know how good the brand is - the high quality of craftsmanship, the attention to details. Our craftspeople - as you know they are local - are very proud of the work they do, and the materials are very sophisticated. For instance, in the pants we use Reggiani fabric, which is known all over the world; the cashmere is Loro Piana cashmere.
Our strength is also in maintaining a great price point. The founders have been very intelligent about re-investing their profits in the growth of the company. The brand survives on these strengths, so our goal is actually to double our gross receipts in the US. That said, opening a retail store in Manhattan is about building the Peserico mentality, really helping people understand the brand. It’s not just for sales receipts from our “final customer.”
We recently hired a regional brand ambassador for the US - she travels around the states, visiting all the stores where our products are sold, and she educates the sales reps about our brand, the materials. It is common for much larger companies to do this. This kind of service gets passed on to our customers.
WB: You were raised in Milan and worked in fashion there before moving to New York. What’s your favorite thing about working in New York?
ADM: You know, it’s strange… in some ways, the cities are so well-connected. They are so similar in terms of relationships and how people work. New York is bigger and a little more international than Milan. The vibe is more intense, there is more enthusiasm. In Milan, people are more concerned about how they look, there is a different idea of sophistication. The clientele are more specific there - in Italy, our collection is huge because of how specific people are. In America, we can work with half the pieces.
WB: You work in a neighborhood that is internationally famous, but you live in Cobble Hill, one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Brooklyn. There’s much debate over the respective merits of the boroughs. Where do you stand on this?
ADM: I used to live on Central Park South but I do love and enjoy living in Brooklyn. Walking around my neighborhood, it feels like it could be the Riviera Italiana - especially during the week. It’s easy to recognize people in my neighborhood, stop and chat about life. I like this sense of familiarity, easily recognizing the people in my neighborhood, stopping to chat about life.
Atelier/BHS founding associate Wyatt Bertz and Wendy Maitland represent Peserico in their NYC/USA expansion...feel free to let us know if you have the perfect Madison Avenue retail space for the company.