Italian hat maker tries a new look



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SPINETTA MARENGO, Italy (AP) – Low hat, Bogie.

The traditional Italian hatter Borsalino, whose rough images have been portrayed by Robert Redford, Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, aims to make more use of women and millennia by engaging in high-end fashion, streetwear and even sport. .

The recent troubles of the company, which have been saved financially by a private equity fund, highlight the difficulties facing Italian companies – not just fashion brands – that seek to stay out of the way to remain competitive and secure. to develop in the era of globalization.

Entering new markets, targeting new demographics and expanding retailers' presence all require liquidity. And even the best prepared business plan can be complicated by the bad stuff of a company, and Borsalino has provided a lot.

This 162-year-old hatter, arguably the oldest fashion brand in Italy, was founded in the city of Alessandria, in northwestern Italy, by Giuseppe Borsalino, whose family sold the control it many decades ago. At the time the Italian-Swiss private equity firm Haeres Equita was invited to invest in 2015, the company had been mismanaged and bled by the previous owner.

"What surprised me at the time was that Borsalino was profitable," said Philippe Camperio, director of Haeres Equita. "It was very small. I thought that there would be a much bigger business in terms of revenue, given the power of the brand. "

The company achieved a turnover of 12 million euros (13.5 million dollars), with profits ranging between 600,000 and 800,000 euros. But he had fallen in many of the world's most renowned department stores, supplying mostly hat stores and not following fashion trends.

Camperio's first step was to take over the historic factory and submit a business plan to the bankruptcy court. In its first year in 2016, revenues increased 20% and profits doubled.

Nevertheless, the business plan was rejected more than once, as courts sought better terms for creditors. The last time it was rejected, in December 2017, the judge had bankrupted Borsalino, and false information was spreading around the world that the maker of the Bogart fedora was no longer.

"We ended up settling in," Camperio said. "We intend to relaunch this brand."

Haeres Equity, which also owns the Swiss hosiery brand Fogal, is looking for other investments in Italian fashion, if possible another "Sleeping Beauty like Borsalino," said Camperio.

In recent months, several fashion companies have turned to outside investors to develop. Michael Kors' Capri Holdings Limited bought Versace as the cornerstone of a new fashion group, while Missoni, Cavalli and Trussardi have all recently made deals with private equity investors for cash.

Camperio expects that a few possible targets will soon be available for sale, as the owners who founded them in the post-war boom in Italy are looking to secure the future of the companies. This can include entrusting businesses to the next generation of the family or selling them to outsiders, such as Versace.

The marketing power of many of these brands lies in the label Made in Italy, considered a guarantee of quality in the world of fashion.

Borsalino hats are hand-made by 80 workers, many of whom have worked at the factory for decades. Giuseppe Borsalino's original machines use hot water and steam to turn rabbit fur into a popular felt that is then dyed and molded. A felt fedora can take weeks to finish.

To revive Borsalino, Camperio brought together a team of fashion experts, including former Gucci CEO Giacomo Santucci. The expansion plan plans to sell more in the United States and Asia and develop new collections to appeal to younger generations and women, two fast-growing markets.

Borsalino's new looks include corduroy baseball caps with the prominent Borsalino logo, or felt travel hats that wrap perfectly.

The goal is to increase the annual production from 150,000 hats to 500,000 in five years, which is still far from the 2 million Borsalino sold each year during the heyday of the post-war period, when men wore regular a hat.

"Borsalino should be the leader of the hat industry," Santucci said. "The power of the brand will stay forever."

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