From Wool Fabrics to Suits in Shop



A few years ago, the British artist Charlie Jeffery decorated the wall of a major woolen mill in the Biella textile cluster. The huge mural decoration shows drifting continents in various ages and the words “Il cambiamento è inevitabile” (Change is inevitable). The company on whose walls the mural decoration was made is not Lanificio Angelico, based in Ronco Biellese, however the owner of the company proved (and still prove) of a good understanding of that message. Drawing inspiration from a small range of suits manufactured on site, just to prove of the quality of their woolen fabrics and noble fibres, since the early 21st century Lanificio Angelico extended their business offering a full range of menswear items sold at private label stores and corners in Italy and on the international market. «Actually, our knowhow is a heritage of our company – says Alberto Angelico,

Alberto Angelico
Alberto Angelico

who with his brother Massimo leads the company in its second generation. In fact, in the 90’s my father Giuseppe had acquired a trouser factory in the Brescia area where they made also coats and apparel in general, while we too used to make garments for our factory outlet. When the Vicolungo outlet centre opened in 2004 not far from Novara, we decided to open our first private label point of sale to investigate a more specialised approach to the retail market of our fabrics. The test was successful and we now count ten point of sales at as many outlet centres in Italy, as well as three boutiques in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, three boutiques in our country and several department store corners in the world». Today, Angelico’s turnover totals approximately 50 million Euros, a third of which generated by the retail business; every year the woolen mill delivers approximately 3.5 million meters of cloth with 250 employees. There are ten points of sale at outlets in our country; in the next few months, a new point of sale will open its doors in a shopping centre at Milano Scalo, while the opening of the twelfth private label shop at the luxury outlet in Settimo Torinese is scheduled for March 2017. Private label shops already exist in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, managed by foreign partners who are aware of the high value of ‘made in Italy’ items. Three private label shops exist in Milan, Bologna and Treviso respectively; further to a recent agreement, some corners will open on the international market, as well as six corners at Coin department stores in Italy.

The total look is available

«Angelico boutiques and points of sale offer a total look – Alberto Angelico explains – including not only suits, but also knitwear, shirts and accessories. For two years now, we have worked with Ettore Veronese a menswear designer who takes care of the total look range we offer our clients. We needed this investment to develop our brand strategy». Thus far, our core customers are in the medium-high end of the market, looking for a balance between quality and price. «We care the ‘made in Italy’ and ‘made in EU’ concept – the CEO adds – and now we are trying to exploit the Angelico brand for the quality it offers. Many brands have done it in the past and we intend to follow the path one step at a time». crezione-tessutiIn Angelico’s opinion, the shift from being a supplier of semi-finished products like fabrics to clothing manufacturers to selling apparel to end clients is the only way to safeguard woolen mills. «In less suspicious times, Zegna and Loro Piana have shown that the change is feasible – explains Alberto Angelico – and Cerruti as well as other brands in the area did the same. Global competition, the operating costs we have to face in Italy more and more erode the margin we obtain from the sale of fabric; hence, clothing manufacturing is a solution the Biella based mills have to consider in order to stay on the market. The Italian system does not promote business growth in general; therefore, we are obliged to look for long-term strategic opportunities and new development environments.

E-commerce: a Business Opportunity

Reaching the final customer is one way to hit the target. Besides our private label shops we also developed an e-commerce business on our website, offering the same range on sale in our stores: suits, coats, heavy jackets, shirts, accessories and a lot more. The made to measure service is the only difference – adds Angelico – otherwise everything is available. It was an important investment however performing, as it captures younger consumers, who are used to buy online. Though living not far from a point of sale some customers prefer to place their order online.

Massimo Angelico
Massimo Angelico

Their approach is different; they appreciate the comfort of digital economy. To other customers buying at a shop is the ultimate experience and they choose that channel. What the web offers both of them is the marketing and shop window effect, their place in the consumers’ mind; the facts prove us right».  As for now, Angelico’s successful policy is that of a step at a time: continuous, targeted investments, learning from experience, a gauged development both in research and quality of cloth manufacturing and an expanding apparel range and retail network. Plus ears to the ground, to feel the market, the trends and the openings offered. This is the future according to the recipe in the Biella area.

by Debora Ferrero