BY: NARGIZ ISMAILOVA, Fashion Industry and Business Analyst
“Barbara Milano. Established in 1971” – is written on the website and social media of the brand. Nowadays, more than 50 years of family business experience is a strong mark of quality, demand, and consumer trust. Yet, Barbara now is again an emerging brand. Do you ask how it is possible? In order to discover how the established brand can become “emerging” again, I talked to the creative team of Barbara.
Why “Barbara” can be considered an emerging brand despite many years of history behind it?
Right, unlike many other brands that are created recently, Barbara Milano has a history over decades in the Italian leather good industry. However, it is our goal to re-establish the brand with a refreshing image and reach out to a wider market, to become a future strong brand. So, I would say it is an emerging brand. – says Moma, Head of Marketing
Does the “new start” of Barbara mean a total change of the brand?
I would prefer to call this progress, ‘evolution’ instead of a total change. The high quality of material and craftsmanship are important heritages of Barbara Milano and these are the things that we will always keep working on.
“What’s evolving here, instead, is how to express ourselves through design: to adapt, to provoke, to be visible in this more and more digitalized era”. – says Moma
Barbara Milano, as a brand, was created by local Italian artisans, the Corani brothers, that have a long history and played an important role in leather craftsmanship in Italy. Though, for many years working with the world’s biggest luxury brands, the family business also has been focused on the Barbara brand, for which the main market shifted to China.
Why China became the main market for the brand?
It is inevitable to see how greatly in many aspects China has grown in the last few decades. Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the global market in the past year, China is still one of the most dynamic markets around the world. It offers great business environment and opportunities for many firms from Europe.
Obviously, we’re not the only ones who noticed that, and entering this market is yet challenging and competitive. We believe, facing these challenges would also keep us as a brand to stay energetic and grow to become more competitive in the global market. – says Moma
Are the Chinese and European markets absolutely different?
The Chinese and European markets crossroads, for sure, but the culture behind it is different, the marketing models are different. It is the reason why we cannot produce completely the same models for both markets, we consider the preferences and the culture. – says Moma
Where do the materials for the bags come from?
All the primary materials for the bags come from Italy, and they’re further processed in Italy, with top craftsmanship. As the quality and crafts of the leather goods industry have always been important in Italy for over hundreds of years and have a high reputation all over the world, what Barbara wants to bring out here is the top quality of “Made in Italy” jointed with the concept of a young-hearted design. – says Moma
The brand production facilities are located nearby Milan, which makes it reachable within one hour from the city center. Using the opportunity, I visited the brand`s manufacturing factory.
Our offices are right here, next to production! – said the designer of Barbara, a little shy. – Not fancy but very comfortable: thus, I can go to observe the actual making process and not only draw the sketches kilometers away from the production.
This little detail makes the whole picture. Every product model goes through expertise and control at each stage of the production circle.
Look, there is a detail in stitching in here that is very tricky! It is easy to miss the defect, even not all of the professionals can notice it. But this kind of detail builds a quality! – says the designer.
I didn’t really notice any defect but believed the designers’ words as the production of Barbara bags is based on the founder`s family historical manufacturing that is working with many worldwide luxury brands. However, besides the quality, there is a rapid industry movement towards sustainability: like the old ones, the emerging brands must catch up in line to meet the challenge.
How does Barbara work on being sustainable?
A sustainable brand is considered and rated in many aspects: environmental impact, how is internal management regarding people, other social responsibilities and etc. I wouldn’t mark ourselves as a super sustainable brand yet, but it’s absolutely something we keep working on. We control the material use to avoid waste and overproduction, we don’t use fur nor exotic animal skins, we carefully evaluate and seek more sustainable primary materials…
Who is your customer now?
We are not following any particular trends. – says the designer.
By Barbara, fashion is freedom: everybody is free to wear what they want and when they want. Everything is fashion at a moment, everything is trendy, no borders.
Especially, it became so after the Covid-19 spread, when the trends became nominal, just to show the character of the brand, but after the show, it’s a consumer who decides what to wear. – says the designer
Yes, Barbara is the youngest daughter of Giuseppe, a founder, one of two Corani brothers. Barbara was his favorite angel muse. She was free to be the kind of woman she wants, with endless love and care from the family. – says Moma
I like to travel to new places, I love Scandinavia countries, minimal lifestyle, minimalism in fashion as a concept, and a clear mindset. You know, I don’t need the inspiration to create new shapes, everything is already created. It’s very difficult, nearly impossible, to create something completely new, but you only can get inspired by and rethink the existing patterns. My aim is to keep it within our DNA, to keep the character of the brand … That’s where the inspiration comes to the table. And of course, you can’t do this job on willpower only, it would lose the soul. – says the designer
How did Covid impact the brand’s work?
Well of course the pandemic has a global impact and changed a lot in business. One typical change would be accelerating and pushing companies to adopt the digitalization of the business. We have to start seeking new methods, setting new strategies to stay competitive in this new economic environment. It has also changed people’s lifestyles, influenced the trends in the fashion industry. Topics about digitalization, psychological wellbeing and etc. are widely discussed. So, the pandemic in many ways has influenced us to optimize our work, our strategies, our investments. – says Moma
Fashion`s new reality impacts all the players. The giant players have more sources to adapt and adjust to it than small brands. However, the small or emerging brands usually have young creative teams with a better trend vision, especially, when it comes to millennials and zoomers’ interest. New Barbara, definitely, has this advantage.
What are the plans for brand development in Italy and abroad?
The brand had its up and downs over decades. Our goal is to evolve and revive in this new era by reconstructing and improve our business model, to develop a system that allows us to connect better with our clients. – says Moma
As for me, I enjoyed visiting “Barbara” and talking to its team. Like all the emerging brands, there is still a long way ahead of them, but every person I talked to seemed totally dedicated to the common aim.