Tod’s and the fusion of heritage and technology
di Giulia Crivelli
4' di lettura
Diego Della Valle has seen plenty of revolutions, both large and small. And not just in fashion. But the speed of the changes we have seen in the last few years is unprecedented. Only machines are able to keep up without batting an eyelid, we might say. Human beings have different rhythms because, as opposed to computers, we are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be a mix of rationality and emotion. Perhaps we could call it emotional (artificial) intelligence, the evolution of the capacity outlined by psychologist and writer Daniel Goleman in his first bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, published in 1995. In the last 25 years or so everything has changed and even handmade artisan products like those produced by Tod’s rely on the tools of the digital revolution to be distributed, sold and marketed.
«There is a lot of geopolitical and therefore economic uncertainty over which no entrepreneur, in any sector, has the slightest amount of control – explains Della Valle, founder, chairman and CEO of the Tod’s group –. We can study it and ensure we never underestimate it, and at the same time focus on the product, on how we study it, create it, present it to the consumer and sell it to them, either online or offline. The competition is increasingly fierce: at the end of the day, technology has made some things easier on paper, like relations with the end customer. However there is one thing that technology can’t reproduce, imitate or damage, and that is the history of a brand and the authenticity of its artisan expertise. In this regard Tod’s and other Italian brands have nothing to fear».
The Tod’s Group is listed: it is required to publish its sales results every three months and also to report on its profits every six months. This is an obligation established by all stock market regulatory authorities, from Piazza Affari to Wall Street, and one that isn’t immune to criticism. Della Valle has spoken multiple times about how the short-term logic of the quarterly report and the need to give investors, analysts and above all shareholders good news represents a threat to mid- to long-term planning, necessary to give businesses a future that goes beyond the distribution of profits to the shareholders of the moment. For at least a year Tod’s has been making major investments and, like many businesses, has had to deal with falling sales in important markets like Japan and the US, firstly, and now Europe and even China.
«In our role as major shareholders, my family and I will continue to invest — explains the group’s founder —. Not because we aren’t interested in our margin but because we are willing to sacrifice a few percentage points of profitability in the short term in order to lay the foundations for an upturn in our growth and, therefore, our profits. At the end of the day there are no absolute guarantees. But anybody that witnesses an artisan create a shoe or a bag with their own hands knows that nothing could be more real or concrete. Beautiful objects, created with passion, designed to stir the desires and maybe even ignite the passions of the end customer. Of course, today’s consumers aren’t the same as those of the 80s, the 90s and the 2000s. We have to take this into account if we want to attract their attention and bring them to our stores, perhaps after they have found out about us online. This explains our many special initiatives, our capsule and limited edition collections and, increasingly, the projects to make the branded store shopping experience more interesting».
Tod’s most recent collaboration was with Alber Elbaz, who designed shoes and bags for the label in a meeting of two worlds, the savoir faire of the Marche and the eclecticism of the designer. The capsule collection was launched in stores in the past few days and in Milan coincided with the official opening of the new boutique in Monte Napoleone. «I have known Alber for many years and I regard him as an exceptional person with an exceptional talent. I always paired him with Karl Lagerfeld (who died on 19 February, ed.), a designer capable of having an explosive impact every time he proposes something – explains Della Valle –. He has the ability to always be at one with the world around him, and appeals to people of all ages and nationalities. True creativity is a universal language. The same goes for quality: it is impossible to remain unmoved in the face of a beautiful and well-made object».
The Monte Napoleone store is the third stage of a process that began in New York (Tod’s Library) and continued in London (Tod’s Apartment) with the aim of giving each branded store its own distinct connotation, in part connected with the host city.