GIAN MARIA ARGENTINI
Located in the small town of Vinci, just outside Florence, family-owned Allegri is an Italian outerwear company that was founded in the early 1970s—one of the most exceptional periods in modern Italian design. Renowned for their innovative fabrics, Allegri holds over 2,000 textile patents designed to be functional, waterproof, and lightweight fabrics, as well as luxurious and stylish. Among their most notable technical achievements is the “Rain Cashmere”, an incredibly soft, water repellent cashmere that is produced by dipping thread in Teflon prior weaving it into fabric—this process also makes the fabric exceedingly resistant to stains.
Mr. Gian Maria Argentini joined Allegri in 2008 as General Manager, and in 2009 was promoted to CEO of Allegri’s North American operations. He started his career at Safilo, the second largest manufacturer of eye and sun glasses in the world, where he served both at the Canadian branch and at the headquarters in Italy. In between Safilo and Allegri, Mr. Argentini successfully led the growth of the Italian Radici Group in the synthetic fibers industry through international acquisitions in USA, Eastern Europe and South America. He is a graduate of the Università Ca’ Foscari Veneziawith additional studies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, as well as at Harvard University.
While I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Argentini briefly a few years ago, our interview for SIGnature was conducted via email.
How would you describe Allegri style? Allegri is a lifestyle with performing garments, a search for a look that does not need a loud speaking logo, an appreciation of the fit and the comfort that only particular materials and finishings can give. Rain Cashmere, a fabric protected by “Teflon fabric protector”, applied to jackets and coats, gives the feeling of a luxury garment without the fear of damaging it when the climate conditions are uncomfortable. Allegri is a brand that applauds action and individuality, for those who appreciate innovation and are success oriented.
What’s your definition of luxury? Luxury is an experience, not a product. Aspiration, heritage, quality and exclusivity are at the core of any luxury purchase.
What’s your assessment of the luxury market today? The luxury market is experiencing a slowdown, but we have experience continued strength in the U.S. and Asia. Brands that have improved the directly operated retail business are performing better than the wholesale channel. The overall industry will experience organic growth despite the economy because of the attractive Asian market.
Is the U.S. still a market driver for your business? Within the U.S. market Allegri has been on a steady sales incline over the past four years, growing eightfold since 2008. The U.S. has become our strongest market after our home, Italy, and is predicted to take the lead over the next two seasons. The distribution strategy, marketing activity and the service level offered to our business partners are the pillars of our performance in the U.S. The American market is also a font of information for product development and is constantly viewed as a model example of performance judgment by consumers and industry tastemakers.
What has been your most challenging project to date? What’s challenging is we deliver a product that is ‘high-performance’ but the luxury design and details do not necessary resonate as a performance piece. We straddle both markets and it is important to find to communicate our message to the final consumer – attention to detail, extensive fabric research and functionality that each of our garments embodies.
Describe the ideal Allegri client… Men and women who are leadership oriented, active and always exploring and seeking beauty. Someone who sees innovation as an opportunity for a good life.
What’s the ‘next big thing’? Our dream is to launch a directly operated retail business in five or six cities across the States that will further build Allegri through brand awareness and the overall business of our clients – both fine department and specialty stores.