We are seated with Piquadro CEO Marco Palmieri in the showroom of the brand’s office in Milan, Italy after a brief presentation by him on the company direction.
Palmieri is on a tight schedule, but nevertheless, he’s affable and charming as he walks us through a brand that is making its first appearance in Malaysia. (The only Malaysian media present are an editor from a men’s magazine and myself.)
The Italian brand was founded in 1987 by Palmieri, a then 22-year-old engineering student, though it only had its own collection in 1998, previously crafting leather products for third party companies.
Our initial impression of the brand was that it was purely functional; the photos really don’t do the bags justice. This is a product that needs to be seen, touched and explored.
It produces primarily leather business and travel items, such as suitcases, bags and luggage plus the prerequisite accessories like key holders and phone cases.
Palmieri’s past experience was in the field of IT and the idea was to create a brand for the tech man.
“The tech man travels, because our experience was in that direction, so we started with a backpack, the briefcase for the traveller. I remember our first advertising campaign was for the backpack and so while the offering may change, the philosophy remains the same, in terms of design, comfort and technology. The brand is about “tech inside”.
“The idea was to put in the bag some features, ideas, functionality or technology because our target is what someone thinks about inside, not only outside. The mentality of an engineer is different from a fashion person because the fashion people want only the aesthetic. It’s not just the outside but looking for something different, that’s the convergence we are looking for.”
He makes it quite clear that this is not a fashion brand, especially when we ask him about the Piquadro man.
“The Piquadro man is not a fashion victim but someone who likes the style and design. And he has one approach to consumption; he is sophisticated but curious, and he wants to know about his bag. Sometimes the fashion victim is not like that, it’s more impulsive. I like, I buy. The Piquadro person says ‘Nice, I like it, but I want to understand a little bit better’. It’s a mix up between emotion and functionality.”
The brand’s name comes from the first letter of his own surname, and “pelletterie” (Ieather goods). Since both begin with p, it became p squared, which in Italian is Piquadro.
Let that sink in and you will notice that just like the amount of thought that goes into the creation of a brand name, Palmieri has painstakingly applied that to his own products.
There is literally a function for everything. Heading out into a rainstorm? There’s a plastic wrapper attached to be pulled over the bag for protection. You have a bicycle helmet?
There’s a compartment for that and even one for an extra pair of shoes. Umbrella slots, drink bottle holders, smartphone connectors … there might even be space for a kitchen sink, engineered in such a way you probably never thought possible.
Lest you think this brand is just for men, 40% of its customers are actually women. While there are some items for women, Palmieri is not keen on having separate lines.
“I think that our perfect positioning is in the unisex group, as we are seeing that the convergency is in the unisex. This is why the show yesterday (see sidebar on the S16 presentation) is for men and women and this is our direction.
“We would like to be different. There are a lot of fantastic players in women’s bags and players in serious briefcases. Piquadro would like to stay in the middle. You have a blue bag for a suit but you may have one in red, why not? And just to change your image a bit, you may have a backpack for fun.”
As this is a tech man we are talking to, connectivity is an important factor as he rightly states nowadays everything is connected with the laptop. He says the brand is already working on something to communicate with your smartphone. For example, locating your bag or wallet. So if you lose your bag or it’s stolen, your phone rings to let you know.
Having said that, Palmieri says wryly that we already have so many devices to charge, that if we also have to charge our bags, that would be too much.
Despite his emphasis on functionality and technology, his favourite piece is a classic one. This is the best seller, the Blue Square, and Palmieri shows us the various functions of the bag, saying that to create this bag (it came out 10 years ago) takes more than 300 components.
And Piquadro definitely understands the importance of brand positioning. In Paris, the store is located in none other than Saint Honore, the Holy Grail or hallowed shopping ground of French luxury brand motherships. And it has a store on Regent Street in London and Madison Avenue in New York.
In Kuala Lumpur, Piquadro opened in June at Suria KLCC. Asia is a market the brand is currently expanding in; it’s already in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
It’s also upping its exclusivity factor by providing no less than a bespoke service, called Sartoria. No two bags are alike under its customisable range. You can choose anything from colours to hardware, down to flaps and handles. And unlike some brands with their atrocious waiting lists, Piquadro will have your customised “handcrafted in Italy” bag shipped to you in 20 days complete with a unique serial number and your name stamped inside.
Palmieri also says you can have your name written on a product, where you choose the font and size and it will be delivered in 48 hours.
All these things are part of what he calls “engaging with the customers”.
“Like a club, it’s very important, to get a special relation with each customer. Like when a company speaks to a single customer. When their bag is broken, my customers want us to fix it, so the after sales service is very important.”
So where does he see the future of the brand?
“Very difficult for me to even see the company tomorrow morning,” is his reply. That’s what he says, but it looks like Piquadro has bagged itself a spot as one of the lifestyle brands to keep track of.