Claudio Marenzi – Herald the Next Chic: Herno Interview
BY GEORGE WAYNE
Suffice it to say that GW was the first to really tell you. Suffice it to say you read it here first and that is this simple fact: Herno is destined to be the next fashion chic in America.
Italian heritage and pedigree is just the start. After all, Herno’s infallible and revolutionary coats and outerwear come with decades steeped in durability and reverence. And not only in Italy, of course, and especially loved in Germany and Japan. And now, the Herno second generation heir, President & Managing Director Claudio Marenzi, has taken the marvelously astute gamble to aggressively broaden brand awareness with the opening of its first brick-and-mortar flagship in the United States this past summer. And so finally, after 70 years of Made-in-Italy excellence, Herno now has a home in Manhattan.
Claudio, first of all, congratulations on your Cavaliere del Lavoro. GW is assuming it’s the Italian version of a fashion industry knighthood.
It’s like the Légion d’Honneur in France or, I guess, also like being called a Sir in the United Kingdom. I guess being called a Cavaliere is the Italian equivalent. But we don’t call each other Cavaliere in Italy. It is still, however, a great honor and recognition from our government in Italy. I am very proud of the honor. Especially because I am still young. [Laughs]. I am a young Cavaliere! I am 55 years old.
It is a great honor in the finest of Italian traditions and well deserved. The fact is, after all, that you are certainly a part of that upper, upper echelon of fashion moguls and industrialists in Italy — and also the Chairman/President of Pitti Immagine.
As you know, Pitti is the best men’s fashion fair in the world. It’s more than a fair — it’s a happening!
I have heard of Pitti Uomo which is always a must-see for some of the most fashionable men and editors in the world. The world’s leading fashion peacocks all want to experience Pitti Uomo at least once!
It’s a great moment because it is truly a gathering of all the leading facets of menswear design. The fashion designers, the manufacturers, the communicators, the influencers — all the elements of the fashion industry insist on being part of Pitti Uomo.
Speaking of branding and all that, I must say that I could not be more thrilled to learn that Herno just opened its first brick-and-mortar flagship in New York City.
We are also very excited. This will be our first store in the United States. We have seven free-standing stores worldwide including this new one at 95 Greene Street in SoHo, New York City. Herno also has 46 shop-in-shop boutiques, as we call them. These are Herno capsule boutiques in major department stores around the world. Many of our shop-in-shops are in Korea, Japan and Germany.
So why America? And why now for Herno?
For us at Herno, America has been the market that in over the past three years we have seen the brand’s highest percentage of growth.
I am not surprised. Herno is still under the radar but GW regards Herno as the chicest, hottest brand in fashion right now. I think Herno is about to have a HUGE moment in North America, where your brand fascinates the fashion zeitgeist and takes a foothold in this most important market very much like the way Moncler did seasons ago.
We are becoming more serious about the United States. Six years ago, America was our seventh biggest market and now it is up to our third (not including Italy). I think the reason we have seen this growth is because more people are discovering and starting to understand Herno. And since our brand awareness has been increasing here, we have decided to make more of an investment in the United States. We also have a shop-in-shop in Bloomingdales in New York City and we are very excited about the new store in SoHo.
Herno is going to be huge in America and the brand has followed the perfect template. Aligning Herno with the best and leading fashion showroom, M5, was very, very smart on your part. M5 is, after all, the fashion showroom that first launched Moncler, Stone Island, Belstaff, and now Herno in the United States. So that was a very smart strategy right off the start to walk hand in hand with the very best fashion showroom with the best strategic blueprint I do believe.
We do have an incredible showroom and a great team with M5.
Astute fashionistas, one and all, will soon clamor to own the chicest Herno coat or puffer jacket. By the winter of 2017/18 it’s going to be all about Herno. #GWsays!! Herno is destined to intrigue the fashion zeitgeist in America just the way Moncler did seasons ago.
I believe we are more like a Brunello Cucinelli rather than a Moncler. Moncler, for me, is way too commercial, way too fashion. We are bit more like Brunello Cucinelli. Yes, of course, our focus is not on the total look like Brunello Cucinelli. At Herno, our focus is on outerwear and we don’t manufacture just for the sake of fashion, fashion, fashion like other brands. Herno is more (akin) to Brunello Cuccinelli in the sense of that kind of fine Italian luxury and Moncler is not Italian.
True, but it is owned by an Italian, Remo Ruffini, who I’m sure you must know.
I know who he is, yes, of course.
Herno is Italian heritage and pedigree through and through. Tell me about the early history of the brand.
My father and mother, Giuseppe and Alessandra Diana, started Herno in 1948 in this small villa which she owned in the town of Lesa. My mother was the first worker for my father. She did the sewing and he did the design and the distribution. That is how Herno started. We are three brothers and I am the youngest and the only one who followed in the family business. When I was born in 1962 my mother stopped working because, well, she had to raise three young boys! By the end of 1985 I was running the company. As it was, by the end of the 80s, our company was working and doing the manufacturing for many other brands such as Jil Sander and many others who did not have the production capabilities we have at Herno. After Jil Sander we then started manufacturing for the Pradas and the Guccis, etc., and this went on all through the 1990s. And the company was doing very well but by the beginning of 2000 I decided that even though the company was very healthy it was time to refocus. So, I told the family that this was now the time to refocus on our brand Herno. This has been the strategy since 2005.
It was a big investment and it was risky but that is what I decided to do. And since then we have consolidated our brand and sought to increase our brand awareness. Outerwear is our strength and now we have updated the template for the 21st Century. We have incorporated high performance fabrics and more of the athleisure concept. And we started doing this before anyone else! Now it’s the norm but in 2005 this was very new! Even our down jackets incorporate a special down that no other company can deliver or achieve. It took a couple of years to perfect that procedure and technique, but we did it. At the end of the day Herno is a manufacturer that continues to create and research techniques and fabrics that no other manufacturer can produce. It’s a big effort. And now, on the other side, we are focusing on our brand awareness, communication and marketing strategy. This is something that we never really focused on in the past but are now focusing on for the future.
The fashion zeitgeist todays demands Herno! I know this. I feel this! And that is why it was very important for GW to personally have one of the very first opportunities of any arbiter on this continent to meet with you, Claudio Marenzi, and gush about Herno!
Thank you. As I said we control our production 100%. Herno has factories in Italy and Romania…
But will we see an evolution of the brand? Herno is known for its amazing outerwear. But will we ever see Herno underwear or Herno suits?
I could imagine that at a certain point, but for now our focus is on what we do best. That could be part of our future. Maybe when my sons, who are 17 and 20, take over the business. For now, the focus is on increasing brand awareness here.
What does Herno mean?
The name Herno came from the name of the creek, Erno, that flows by the company headquarters which was founded in Lesa along the shores of Lake Maggiore in 1948. My father was the one who added the “H” and named the company Herno.
For you, what is the bellissimo ideal? What for you is the ideal molto chicissimo?
A very good question. For Herno, that would be the perfect mix of technology and high fashion. Innovation and true luxury is my bellissimo.
Does Herno intend to go public on the Milan Stock Exchange anytime soon?
Yes. This is my intention. We must achieve double the revenue we have now before we attempt that. Let’s just say… This is on my mind for the future.
I love the organic, conceptual tone of the Herno print advertising campaign I see running in GQ magazine here in America. But let me ask you this: Alessandro Michelle (Gucci) or Demna Gvasilia (Vetements/Balenciaga)? Of the two, who is the more genius fashion force majeure of the moment? Alessandro. He is, in my opinion, translating this moment of fashion and glamor in this age of social media in a very special way. He designs clothes for maximum effect for social media.
Gucci is certainly Instagram ready. I get what you are saying.
It’s not my thing but I understand it. What he is doing for Gucci is the right fashion for the right moment and I understand it.
Thank you very much Claudio Marenzi! For George Wayne, the next fashion moment will be all about Herno!! And I will have no problem telling you that GW should be anointed one of your first official Herno Brand Ambassadors! Hello!!!!
George Wayne, Contributing Editor
Acclaimed New York-based style scribe George Wayne welcomed the opportunity to sit with New York’s influential downtown gallerist, Georges Bergès, to chat about his ‘platform for collectors.’ The Jamaican-born writer will have his ‘’quasi-memoir,’’ Anyone Who’s Anyone – The Astonishing Celebrity Interviews 1987-2016, published by HarperCollins in the Autumn of 2017.
Photo of George Wayne | John Nacion