Slowear CEO Piero Braga on considered growth and building women’s offerings

When Slowear launched in 2003, it was a novel concept. For starters, it combined four different and independent men’s clothing manufacturers—Incotex for pants, Zanone knitwear, shirts by Glanshirt, and Montedoro jackets—and was a unique way to build a brand. Secondly, dedicating itself to the ideology of building a wardrobe that lasts over time versus switching it up seasonally had early sustainability markings. For CEO Piero Braga, who joined the brand in May 2023 after it was acquired by private equity following the unexpected death of its CEO Roberto Compagno, conscious scaling is the task at hand. FashionNetwork.com sat down with Braga in the brand’s New York Lafayette Street store to discuss its next steps, including introducing its women’s collection to the US market.

Piero Brago

“By our name, we are a concept; before being a clothing label, we are an idea,” Braga said in the Lafayette store’s ‘living room’ decked out in mid-century modern velvet-covered furniture, an example of the brand’s concept. Feeling comfortable in the space, to pause and take in their offerings is paramount to Slowear.

While launched nine years ago, Braga says Slowear for women is a work in progress. “Now is a good time for a company like Slowear to develop a women’s product concept because fashion’s winds are blowing towards offering similar values of our men’s DNA for women. It is my business plan to develop this. We are at the preliminary stages, and bringing it here is an important test for us,” he said.

The CEO said beyond the female shoppers’ interest in Slowear, the main goal is to offer a new proposition for a new customer. “We rely on a loyal and stable clientele, maybe a bit too much, and we should push for customer acquisition,” Braga continued, adding that clientele is a strong brand community. He assured that step by step, as is the Slowear way, the brand will increase its volume in terms of communication.

 ​The Lafayette store differs from the other European locations as the first location to house both men’s and women’s collections under one roof. While Braga consolidated the heads of men and women into one role since coming on board, he quickly pointed out that Slowear women’s isn’t just a carbon copy of the men’s styles. The streamlined design approach will debut for Fall 2024.

The NY Lafeyette store

“We are slightly changing our approach to the women’s collection, redefining the customer as someone we want to dress. This means women can choose long-lasting garments with the same quality fabrics and classic styles as men,” he explained, referring, for instance, to suiting and linen fabrics usually reserved for gentlemen.

“We aren’t trend-focused, and it’s also not an androgynous look; we want women to express femininity. We don’t want it to be a carbon copy of the men’s offering,” he clarifies. For the feminine expression, the Spring offerings include sequin skirts and pants, nubby cardigans, belted linen skirts, and separates in a pale lavender.

However stand-alone each collection is, certain best-selling styles are recut to address the feminine form. Case in point: linen double-breasted blazers from Montedoro go for $915, Incotex linen pants for $475, and Zanone knit T’s and polos at $245 and $380 recall core offerings but altered for a women’s silhouette.

In addition to selecting in-store ladies’ styles, the collection is available online in the US, which is another upgrade the brand has made recently. “Before, we didn’t sell the women’s online due to the prior logistics with a US distribution hub, which required us to send inventory that would be difficult to retrieve if it didn’t sell out. Now we are serving the US from Europe,” Braga continued.

While the brand is wholesaled globally, Braga isn’t hastily jumping into this distribution stateside. “The wholesale market in the US is the most challenging in the world, dominated by big department stores in contrast to European mom-and-pop boutiques where if they love your brand, they push it. At a department store, you are just another brand among many,” he suggested, adding, “I want to be prepared before approaching this.”

In keeping with the Slowear long-game approach, Braga says there is an opportunity to expand into a complete lifestyle brand. To wit, the brand started carrying specially developed home fragrance products by French brand Revive inspired by European vacation spots, used initially as the ‘house’ scent, but customers liked it so much they asked if they could buy it. 

Braga also noted that there is room for accessories development at Slowear, albeit one by one. Currently, there are co-branded footwear styles from Sebago, various third-party women’s shoes, and Slowear-produced sneakers. Special collaborations include a suitcase by Globe Trotter and peacoat and sailor jackets from Main Sail.

“We can add anything that fits our DNA if what we do is coherent with this lifestyle and authentic; the word that matters to me is authenticity. Once you are established in your core, you can widen it. Slowear is a flexible concept,” he said.

Slowear SS24

At the end of March, Slowear will open a location in Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany, aka ‘the Italian Hamptons,’ another testing ground for its first vacation/weekend-centric location with a local and international customer. “Our first resort location will contribute to the positioning of Slowear the way I want it to be. The test-and-go strategy is necessary for a small brand,” he added.

In defining the customer, Braga generally cites businessmen with a decent amount to spend on capturing the continental European look who appreciate brands such as Brunello Cuccinelli, Loro Piana, and Zegna but have been priced out of those uber-pricey labels.

“Those bands are the kingmakers of the contemporary gentlemen today but went so high in price they left an appealing market segment available,” he noted. Braga worked at the former, along with Tod’s and Gucci, where he spent almost 20 years.

Slowear is a different beast from his former roles, where Braga will build the mechanism, not just be a part of one, and is valued closer to 50 million euros versus three billion euros like his past employer, Gucci. It’s a company transitioning, however gently and responsibly, towards growth for its next phase, sort of like Braga himself.

As Braga surveyed the Marquee corner location in Noho, he said he was immediately drawn to the space. “Unfortunately, we still have this scaffolding around the building perimeter. I would prefer to see that in front of another store,” he commented, noting that it blocks so much of the store’s airy, open glass front façade. With that, the CEO was on to tackle other slow-moving entities, contractors and New York City Hall building regulations.

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