The Borsalino brand was born on 4 April 1857 when Giuseppe Borsalino inaugurated what is now the oldest Italian luxury hat manufacturer in Alessandria, a town in northern Italy. Here, RLI sits down with the Managing Director Mauro Baglietto to discuss the heritage of the company and how it continues to stand the test of time.
Borsalino specialises in the production of luxury hats and is known across the world for extraordinary quality, unmistakable style and timeless elegance.
For over 160 years their hats have been manufactured through a production process that combines an industrial perspective and artisanal spirit. For felt models, more than 50 manual steps are required along with seven weeks of processing, meanwhile for the creation of straw models, manually woven in Ecuador, every single hat can take up to six months to be completed.
Since 2018, the business has been owned by Haeres Equita, a private equity company of Italian and international investors, with the objective to develop the brand internationally and strengthen its leading role in the world of artisanal luxury.
Covid-19 had a profound effect on the business due to the manufacturing process being linked to multiple processes incorporating manual work and craftsmanship. They had to stop production back in 2020 which made it an incredibly difficult year, but it did give them the opportunity to study the structure of Borsalino, renew their strategy, be much more focused on the local customer and develop the online aspect and e-commerce side of sales. Because of all this work behind the scenes during the worst times of the pandemic, last year was a really successful one for the business, so much so in fact they almost recovered the loss they had in 2020.
“Today we operate 15 mono brand stores, with the majority of these being positioned across Italy and eleven of them being permanent sites. Nine of these are company owned and the remaining two are franchise locations,” explains Mauro Baglietto, Managing Director of Borsalino.
The most recent store launch saw the inauguration of the first US Borsalino pop-up at the luxury Bal Harbour Shops mall in Miami, which opened in the first week of April and will be situated there until the end of July. The boutique’s elegant and sophisticated space is reflective of the brand’s iconic DNA and universal values for Italian excellence, whilst showcasing the latest collections of hats, caps and soft-accessories for men and women.
Meanwhile at the end of March a new Borsalino boutique was unveiled in Monte-Carlo in the principality of Monaco. This new, 35sq m flagship came about following a successful pop-up in the luxurious Metropole Shopping Monte-Carlo site last year and further strengthens the bonds with the Principality of Monaco. Located on the first floor of the complex, the store overlooks the shopping gallery and is intimate yet rich in detail, designed to perfectly highlight and showcase the latest collections.
Late last year the brand opened its very first travel retail unit by launching a standalone boutique at Milan Linate Airport that was inspired by design, technology and sustainability. The store is situated within the Piazzetta del Lusso area that overlooks airport departures and is dedicated to high-end shopping. The boutique is characterised by an original visual identity designed to enhance the highlighted selection of hats and caps for contemporary travellers.
“Last year we were very focused on the European markets whilst this year, our goal is to have a strong presence in the US, and this has started very well with the pop-up store in Miami. As for next year, our focus will be the Asia-Pacific, as we hope the pandemic situation will have eased over there by 2023 and we can look to expand in that part of the world,” explains Baglietto.
When discussing how new products and initiatives, Mauro explains that they are careful in studying the trends of the business. For example, not so long ago the company was more male orientated with about 70 per cent of sales in this category, but today that split between male and female sales is almost 50/50.
They also have a strong and loyal customer base that really loves the quality and style of the hats produced and Baglietto feels this loyalty is enhanced through the activations and collaborations they do with other brands.
“For example, we have done a very successful collaboration with Valentino and this was very interesting for us because we can enter into contact with a new type of customer as well as studying new marketing activities jointly with the partnering brand. We did this with Valentino and Yoshi Yamamoto, we have done it with AMI Paris and we have others in the pipeline as well.”
As we near the end of our time with Mauro, we ask him what the ethos of the brand is?
“Our ethos is based around the quality of the product we produce, and the value this places on the DNA of Borsalino. We have developed a strong know-how throughout our 160 year history and we have to utilise this knowledge and apply it in a contemporary way without it affecting the quality and value of our product.”
As the company looks to the future, the goal in the coming years is to revamp the brand and for it to have a much stronger international presence, Baglietto highlights that this is a very important part of the evolution of the concept.
“We need to modernise the brand and give a new, contemporary life to our historical brand, with a stronger physical presence around the world to help portray our vision for the future.”