Serapian: Turning a Pearl into a major success

One brand very much on the move at Pitti this week was Serapian, the Milanese leather goods specialist acquired by luxury giant Richemont in November 2017.


Serapian - Fall/Winter 2019-20 - Photo: Richemont
 
At Pitti, the house showed some beautifully swish four-wheeler weekend bags, done in mosaico, its signature woven leather. Other weekend trolleys come in polycarbonate, with elegant curved tops and hyper-precise hardware, weighing just 3.7 kilos. Pricier versions are made in especially sleek Nappa leather.
 
Interiors are always finished with sturdy velvet, with high-end trim and zips. All made in Italy, and often finished with certain feminine touches, like the artfully curved leather handles that seem almost ladylike. A certain fifties shape, but a modern techy luxe finish. And uber luxe – like a 21,000-euro midnight blue alligator briefcase that reeked success.
 
“Our chairman Johann Rupert always says it’s about turning a pearl into a global brand. He believes in investing in small brands with rich heritage,” admits CEO of Pelletteria Richemont, Giacomo Cortesi, who adds: “Leather is a new pillar for the group, which is heavily established in watches and jewelry.”
 
Swiss-based, but South African controlled Richemont controls the world’s best section of luxury watch marques including IWC, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, as well as jewelry giants Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, among many other prestige brands.
 
Cortesi has been busy completely renovating Serapian’s flagship Via della Spiga boutique, guided by Giampiero Bodino, creative director of the Richemont group. It will be completed in March. They are also establishing a customized department below its Villa Mozart showroom. Serapian boasts a Milanese atelier on Via Niccolò Jommelli and a factory in Varese, north west of Milan. 
 
The brand also has stores in Rome and Venice, and is “cleaning up” global distribution by eliminating less well-located retailers. By the end of this year, they expect to be in 130 sales points worldwide.
 
“Our philosophy is not a quick profit. It’s about taking our time and getting it right,” stressed Cortesi.
 
Richemont does not reveal individual brand turnovers. However, Serapian annual revenues are estimated at below 5 million euros.
 
At a moment when Italy is refusing to accept refugees locked on ships in the middle of the Mediterranean, it is instructive to recall that founder Stefano Serapian was a refugee who opened his business in 1928 after he escaped the genocide against Armenians in Turkey.
 

CEO of Pelletteria Richemont, Giacomo Cortesi - Photo: Richemont

Serapian’s DNA is that it’s a Milanese maison, with a huge potential archive dating back three generations. “Now we are concentrating on resetting the design codes; focusing on a great intricate mosaico,” adds the CEO, a 47-year-old father of three kids; and engineer with a masters from Bologna, the world’s oldest university. After college, almost by accident, his CV was sent to Salvatore Ferragamo in 1998.  Called to an interview, Cortesi ended up working in operations, and stayed four years, later running ZeFer, the joint venture for leather goods between Ferragamo and Zegna, until 2006.
 
He then left for Richemont for a decade as MD of the leather good division of Montblanc. Cortesi is also member of the board on Polimoda, Florence’s famed fashion school, along with Ferruccio Ferragamo and Raffaello Napoleone. Though his day job keeps him very busy.
 
“We are not and never will be a mass market group. We are real luxury. So we target the top end of the pyramid; with a maniacal approach to craftsmanship. We believe that the skills here in Serapian can be very useful our the whole group,” insisted Cortesi, who reports to Jérôme Lambert, group CEO.

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