Missoni's Hands-Off Fashion Executive

CEO Emilio Carbonera Giani sees positive long-term results thanks to a laissez-faire approach.

Emilio Carbonera Giani at the Missoni apartment in Milan. (Photo: Mattia Balsamini)

You’ve spent your career in fashion—at Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, and the menswear brand Caruso. What has been your path?

I started in banking and then moved into textiles, which led me to the Marzotto Group, the then-owner of Valentino. From there I went on to Ferragamo, where I worked with my mentor, [former CEO] Michele Norsa. Caruso was completely different because it’s a very small company and focused exclusively on bespoke suiting. The common thread throughout my work has been that in Italy, most of the luxury fashion brands are family-owned. Working with families has major advantages: They tend to make decisions with a longer-term view, rather than being focused on short-term results or dealing with shareholders.

You’ve been COO of Missoni since 2015. What have been the biggest changes under your tenure?

I have focused on e-commerce—an important area for us—as well as next steps for merchandising. In two or three years I hope we’ll be able to add accessories like small bags and leather goods.

Where are the next big markets for Missoni?

China—and there are opportunities in India, but not in the short term. The luxury market is still very small there, and while there are many affluent people, it is just starting to grow for us. The U.S. is a traditionally strong market, so we’ll keep that up while focusing on the Far East—Thailand and Vietnam—and South America.

How would you describe your management style? 

I tend to be very practical: direct and to the point, sometimes too much so. I don’t micromanage. Our offices are set in Varese, in the countryside, and most of the staff lives in and around this area, and the office culture reflects that.

Missoni has an interesting strategy around monobrand boutiques vs. multi-brand stores. How do you select where to sell and why?

We’re a small company and can’t open thousands of stand-alone boutiques—we currently have nine—and the look of the collection works well for multi-brand stores, like Shin Kong Place in Beijing. Major department stores are our biggest point of sale. In terms of stand-alone stores, Paris is our most successful, despite the difficult times there, followed by Rome, Milan, and New York.

Who is your core customer? 

Americans, Germans, the British, and Middle Eastern clients are all very important, and Italians make up 10 percent of our sales. Our customer appreciates our creative process: We dye the yarn, weave the fabrics, and create the color pattern combinations. Our things are artisanal from the start through to the finished product, and this isn’t common in most fashion houses.

What is next for Missoni?

We’ll continue to develop [our less-expensive line] M Missoni, which is very important to the overall business and to our licensees. There aren’t any near-term collaborations like we did with Target, but we’ll continue to partner with other companies that are the top in their category. We’ve had recent successful partnerships with Converse and Havaianas, and we’ll continue to do more of these. On the residential side, we’re doing the Missoni Baia residences in Miami with developer Vladislav Doronin. This project allows us to offer a full image of Missoni to the world. We’ve done previous hotel projects—in Kuwait and Edinburgh, Scotland—and we weren’t particularly happy with them, so now we select partners very carefully and only link our name to super first-class properties.

What is luxury now? 

It’s something very personal. Something you can’t find everywhere. Luxury is scarcity.

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