INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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Exclusive Interview | Rene Caovilla’s Third Generation’s View Of China Market

August 1,2019

Prior to joining the family business in 2009, Edoardo Caovilla, who holds the title of CEO and Creative Director of Rene Caovilla, actually started his career in finance. In a recent interview with Luxe.Co, he said: "I've always been obsessed with numbers, to be honest, but inheriting the family business was originally the family's wish."

"The King of Banquet Shoes" 

Rene Caovilla, the world’s longest-lived luxury shoe business, has a history of nearly 100 years. After three generations of adherence to family genes and design innovation, the brand has become the red carpet choice of many royal members and celebrities such as Princess Diana, Rihanna, Bella Hadid, etc. Therefore, it is also known as the "The King of Banquet Shoes".

"In our price range (retail price $1200/pair), we can say that no other brands can sell as many shoes as we do, not even Hermès or CHANEL," Edoardo Caovilla said proudly, "that's why we don't have to compete with other brands for market share, because we have created a market."

In addition to its high price tag, Rene Caovilla's matching materials and craftsmanship make it an irreplaceable brand in the crowded Italian handmade shoe market. Its products are integrated with precious materials such as fur, pearl and crystal. It is worth mentioning that when peers are making shoes with imitation jewelry, Rene Caovilla chose real and high-quality jewelry, such as ARTē Madrid, a popular Spanish jewelry brand.

According to Edoardo Caovilla, each pair is made up of at least 42 parts, each made from different materials from different suppliers, and each part has its own details and purpose. In addition, each pair has 15 sizes, diversified colors and fabric choices, making this shoemaking process test the skills of craftsmen to the extreme. Even with the same parts and instructions, artisans at a nearby shoe factory said they can't recreate a second pair of Rene Caovilla. The secret is in the family's DNA.

As he says, "People always ask me how long does it take to make a pair of shoes. For us, it's not about time, it's about the DNA that links us for generations that makes us different. Of course, if you have to give an answer, 8 to 12 hours."

What are Edoardo Caovilla's experiences and challenges in running a family business? And what’s his story with China market? With these questions, Luxe.Co conducted an exclusive interview with Edoardo Caovilla during the preview of the new product. 

Luxe.Co: We know that you have been working in the finance industry for years, so why did you choose to return to the family business? And not only to manage the business, but also to be a designer?

Edoardo Caovilla: Yes, as far as my personal interests are concerned, I have always been obsessed with numbers. To be honest, I followed my family's wishes to come back and take over the family business.

I grew up watching my father manage the family business and see his passion for it -- this spirit infected me. When I took over, I was faced with dual tests of brand distribution and design capabilities. At the beginning, design was difficult for me, so I insisted on practicing in various aspects to improve my design accomplishment. In my spare time, I also designed my own home, played the piano and started cooking, which proved to be helpful.

Luxe.Co: What challenges did you encounter when you decided to design shoes without systematic design training?

Edoardo Caovilla: Yes, very challenging. I'm not a design major, so my peers are looking at me, but I'm not afraid to study hard. In addition, I have a very strong internal team to help me to do design. But the overall idea of the product, such as style, heel height, color and other general direction decisions are still made by me. I like sketching very much, and I always participate in sketching design whenever I have time.

Luxe.Co: Is Rene Caovilla still 100% family-owned?

Edoardo Caovilla: Yes, the company is still fully controlled by our family. Maybe we will consider going public in the future. In addition, we did not recruit professional managers from outside. Now is not the time, because first you have to do enough research on the candidates to in-depth understand them.

Luxe.Co: How has your previous experience helped the management of your family business? Is your management style very different from that of your grandfather and father?

Edoardo Caovilla: Before joining the family business, I worked in media, banking, insurance and other industries for 15 years, and this diversified experience was an advantage for me. I look at customers' needs as a "collection" in mathematics, and combine this kind of thinking with creativity to design products.

Luxe.Co: We noticed that Rene Caovilla is now launching sneakers. How do you see the product category expanding? Does the company plan to develop a category of men's shoes? Or other categories than footwear?

Edoardo Caovilla: At present, the sales proportion of sports shoes is around 5%, but our company strictly controls the proportion of each shoe category below 15%, because when the proportion of a certain kind of shoes is too high, it means there is a risk.

Our brand is rooted in women's shoes, not men's. Our future goal is to transform into a high-end luxury accessories brand, and we plan to launch a customized haute couture jewelry series around 2020 and 2021.

Luxe.Co:  What is the brand's current annual sales?

Edoardo Caovilla: About 140 million euros, a double-digit year-on-year increase.

Luxe.Co: How would you describe the consumers of the China market?

Edoardo Caovilla: Our Chinese customers are in their 20s to 40s. Many of them had known about our brand since they were in school, and bought our shoes in their first year on the job, and since their income has increased and they have more product choices.

Luxe.Co: Rene Caovilla has entered the China market for six years. As far as I know, there is no direct store in mainland China. What do you think?

Edoardo Caovilla: We really need to understand the needs of this market before opening any direct-sale stores. In recent years, I have been visiting and researching the China market to gain an in-depth understanding of Chinese culture and traditions and the real needs of local consumers.

In this process, I saw the change of preference of Chinese consumers: in the past, they would blindly choose the style that Westerners like, but now they have their own preferences, which comes from the return of a strong cultural confidence. As an overseas brand, if we can be keenly aware of these trends, we can better develop products accordingly.

During the same winter, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Harbin have very different temperatures. It is these details of shopping habits that need our careful analysis.

Luxe.Co: What challenges do you face in the China market?

Edoardo Caovilla: The first is the selection of store location or boutique store. As people say "your environment determines who you are", and location also determines how consumers view the brand positioning, so location selection needs to be very careful.

The second is the communication with local consumers as an overseas brand.

Third, we are facing the impact from the gray parallel market such as Daigou (overseas personal shopper) in China market. How we control the sales channel strictly in the future is a challenge.

Luxe.Co: How do you see luxury brands expanding their online sales channels in China?

Francesco Francavilla ( Global Chief Communications Officer of Rene Caovilla ): Our website has launched an online sales service for the mainland China market, but it still needs several months to prepare.

In addition, we are now cooperating with both Secoo and Farfetch for online business. Our official WeChat account has been open for less than a year, and the current scale is still very small. Meanwhile, we are considering opening a WeChat Mini Program.

Currently, Rene Caovilla's boutiques are located in the UK, Brazil, the US and the Middle East. In 2018, Hong Kong Harbour City Store welcomed the brand's first direct flagship store in China (below).

In addition to shoes business, Caovilla family has invested in a wide range of industries including banking, media and real estate. Rene Caovilla shoes are like a business card of the family, a symbol of a new way of doing business.

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