Let them talk - Andrea Panconesi - CEO & Founder at LuisaViaRoma

Andrea Panconesi / CEO & Founder at LuisaViaRoma

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Andrea Panconesi / CEO & Founder at LuisaViaRoma

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CC.HOW DID IT ALL STARTED WITH LUISAVIAROMA AND WHEN? AP.It all started in the late 1920s when my French grandmother Luisa Jaquin opened a boutique selling straw hats in Paris. She moved to Brazil with my grandfather where they made a small fortune and later relocated to Florence, Italy. There, she opened a small hat boutique on via Roma. Slowly the store expanded, adding clothes, shoes and accessories.

CC.HOW DID YOU END UP IN FASHION? AP.While still in school, I started dressing the windows and flew to Paris on my first buying trip.

CC. WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP AND GROW INTO THE VIRTUAL WORLD AP.LUISAVIAROMA.COM was founded in 1999 as an additional service available to the store’s international clientele and has grown to become 90% of the company’s revenue. The idea came to me when I saw my daughter do her homework and study using a computer and I intuitively decided that that was where the future of retail was.

CC.HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE INTERACTION BETWEEN FASHION AND THE INTERNET WORLD? HOW DO YOU SEE THE INTERNET FUTURE WHEN IT COMES TO E BOUTIQUE? AP.Technology is unpredictable and a big help at the same time. To some extent one can see more on the web than they can in a physical store. The details, the magnification of stitching, buttons, the quality of the materials and the focus on one model are just a few examples. It’s true that you can’t try on the clothes immediately, but on the other hand you can combine it at home with your own wardrobe. You can ask for a friend’s opinion, your husband or wife’s, and you save time and transportation costs.

In the long run, we want to bring the virtual experience nearer to the physical one. In 10 or 20 years, maybe we’ll be able to feel fabrics on the web. I’m curious about that.

CC.DO YOU CONSIDER HAVING A PHYSICAL BOUTIQUE AND A WEB PLATFORM CRUCIAL IN OUR DAYS AND WHY? AP.The two kinds of experience are getting closer, but they will forever be parallel. We are constantly optimizing the quality of the in-store experience so that it continues to offer new incentives to clients. That’s our day-to-day task.

The physical store offers us a platform for bringing our virtual fans and clients into our reality with special events like Firenze4Ever or with our online clients who stop by to visit when they are on vacation. It is also very important for us that we have a place where we can create a unique experience in the ‘real world’ that we then transform into a ‘virtual world.’

CC.WHERE DO YOU SEE LVR E BOUTIQUE IN 10 YEARS FROM NOW? AP.It’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen in ten years time. It’s already difficult to tell what will happen in six months. Technology is changing so quickly. That’s what we find fascinating. We are working as hard as we can to keep acquiring the best technology and to use it in innovative new ways to give our clients the best and the fastest possible service.

CC. WHAT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS FOR A E BOUTIQUE? AP.LUISAVIAROMA branched into e-commerce in 1999, with the desire to satisfy the expectations of the most demanding customers, who despite being abroad demanded the same service and quality that the physical location in Via Roma was famous for.

CC.HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU CONSIDER SOCIAL NETWORKS? WHICH ONES ARE FOR YOU THE STRONGEST TO COMMUNICATE IN FASHION? AP.Social networking is quickly becoming the primary form of communication between friends, clients and businesses. It allows for rapid distribution of information to a target audience. It is also a good way to build relationships with our clients and suppliers. I believe that all of the social networks we’re active on have a particular charisma and are unique in their own way. Together they form an interesting and innovative panorama. More than measurable results, social networking is a way to build loyalty and to communicate better.

CC.WHAT ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE? IS BEING BASED IN FLORENCE OFFERS YOU A BIT MORE OF A NORMAL LIFE? AP.Yes. We love our way of life. Florence is a small town, which makes personal relationships and daily life simpler than in a big town. The only problem on the business side is recruiting the most qualified experts to come here. If we were in Silicon Valley or London, it would be easier. Fortunately, we’ve developed everything in house so we can adapt our system very quickly because we own the rights.

CC.TELL ME A BIT MORE ABOUT THE FIRENZE4EVER PROJECT? HOW DID YOU START IT? AP.The first Firenze4Ever was organized in June 2010 to celebrate LUISAVIAROMA.COM's 10th anniversary of online activity. (We started in 1999.) We had so much fun organizing the event and meeting with so many amazing people, we just kept going. We found out that they were all really excited, not just about the party, but about the new collections that we had just published and that we had in the store. So, we decided to offer them the same opportunity the next season. We organized professional photo shoots for them with models and make-up artists. Since the collections are in our store in Florence before they are seen anywhere else in the world, Firenze4Ever offers a unique opportunity to them and to us. We’ve got a big project for this June that will take things to the next level.

CC.ANY NEW PROJECTS? AP.We can’t give you details yet, but stay tuned. This Firenze4Ever is going to be bigger and better than ever!

CC.What is your favorite quote? AP."It only takes one or two success stories to change the world" Steve Jobs