BY ANAAM IKRAM
The four young entrepreneurs that created D1 Milano came together through their common love for timepieces to produce one of the most versatile fashion accessories in the industry. Perle Magazine sat down with siblings Alessia and Dario Spallone to find out what it is that makes this company tick.
As an up and coming brand, D1 Milano ensured that they had a product that would sell led by the perfect team; it was essential that they shared the same vision. Thus bringing together the four founding members of the luxury brand: Dario Spallone, CEO; Alessandro Perdersoli, Chief Design Officer; Mattia Bodini, Chief Sales officer; Alessia Spallone, Chief Marketing officer. “It was not four friends getting together, everybody has a very defined role,” said Alessia, whose fashion background helped push the initial idea in the right direction. This proved to be true as, at the age of 22, Dario had outlined the business strategy for the brand. Alessandro used his industrial design expertise whilst Mattia is in charge of networking for distribution.
The Conception and Mechanics of D1 Milano
Watch enthusiasts from the start, it seemed inevitable that the Spallones would create a “non-ostentatious luxury” product themselves. The aesthetic of the watch is so versatile that it can be fashionable, sporty, elegant or classic. “We are not a watch brand, we are an accessory brand. Ours is a fashion accessory and that is the first thing that sets us apart from the rest” Dario said of the timepieces. Through reinterpreting polymers and high-end fashion retailers the watches are able to have a luxury aesthetic while maintaining the mid-level price range.
Within a span of 2 years D1 Milano has come a long way from just a concept. The brand started out in Italy and has spread worldwide, cementing itself firmly in the fashion industry and resting comfortably amongst the fashion elite. D1 Milano has made a strong impression, in the Gulf and worldwide, by selling it exclusively at first to high-end fashion retailers.
Their motif is reinterpreted throughout the watches via three different aspects: emphasis on detail, emphasis on customer experience, and the use of materials. Being an Italian fashion brand, it is crucial to place importance on attention to detail, Dario explained. “You don’t buy a watch, you buy an experience, and that experience is magic”, Dario said. Furthermore, upon purchasing the watch, the customers are welcomed into the D1 Milano world through its unique packaging, which changes into an exhibition panel, a membership, as well as becoming a part of the brand’s social community. Appraised by some of fashions most recognised magazines such GQ, Vogue, L’Officiel and Vanity Fair, D1 Milano has carved a niche for itself in the market with no competitors in sight. It achieves what no brand has managed to thus far, being a statement piece and an everyday fashion accessory simultaneously.
L’Orologio – The D1 Milano Watch
Starting initially with a 1000-piece collection, the D1 Milano had not anticipated how quickly their product would sell-out in such a short amount of time. Launching at Excelsior of Milan, D1 Milano’s watches became an instant fashion favourite. The fashion forward complex displayed the watches, making them an ‘impulse-buy’, explains Alessia. Moving on from there, their second collection contains the now-signature watches. The octagonal-cut, six-piece watches are unisex and vary in material and colour but all are of the same structure. Having also worked with the luxury watch brand Cipriani, the brand created a special edition for the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Fashionable Dilemma: the geeky modern watch
Combining fashion with technology, D1 Milano has created the first ever temperature-affected watch, the Thermochromic watch. This unique watch calls upon the single concept of “the dilemma between
modern and geeky” Dario explains. Again an ode to the magical, the watch uses technology usually found in the industrial sector for safety measures to make sure temperatures do not rise above set degrees. If they do, the tanks and tubes change colour as a warning sign. Adopting exciting technology into their style, Dario explained, created the watches. “We want to take an accessory that you will wear all the time and it changes with you”, he said.
Receiving rave reviews at Milan Fashion Week A/W 2015, Alessia explained their aim is not to mass-produce these watches. They have opted for limited retail distribution, which will go on sale in June. “It is about exclusivity, which people normally misinterpret as being set by the price, it’s not”, Dario said, “it’s decided by the unavailability of the actual watch because of the way it has been promoted, because of the way it has been perceived.”
The savvy marketing of the D1 Milano brand allows it to be an inexpensive luxury aimed at individuals who appreciate its versatility and style, whether or not they can afford to buy a product with a higher price tag. “All the boutiques in Italy that sell our watches are concept stores carrying other fashion brands and the average price is much higher than ours’’, Alessia said, “but the fact that they have our watches on display shows that it fits in with their aesthetic of luxury even though our product is of a lower price.”
Four Perspectives, one vision
From Switzerland to Bahrain, the entrepreneurs ran with their passion, combining it with their knowledge of the industry, resulting in steadfast growth internationally in a short amount of time. Alessia had always toyed with entering the business world. When the idea for their brand came about, she realized that she had the right expertise to lead them in the right direction.
Time Limit – the challenges
As with any business, there are always challenges and obstacles, especially while trying to enter the fashion industry in a country that is already home to fashion giants. Dario explained the Italian market is more cash sensitive and harder to get into however, it was not long before the brand garnered noticeable attention and success.
“We were very confident, maybe even too much, but in the end the market followed,” Alessia said. She described they had not expected to be this successful after the initial launch. However, because their first product instantly became a best seller, their second line was not ready right away as is required by the fashion industry. For the buyers it may seem like there is a 6-month gap between product launches, in reality the designers have a much shorter time span to have their next collection ready before the Fashion Weeks take off, she explained. A year later the D1 Milano team returned with not only an impressive collection, but with a clearer vision, set schedules and a better understanding on how to make their brand a success, and they have not looked back since.”
“Business is 70% execution and 30% luck, the idea counts for almost 0%” Dario said speaking of his own experience with starting the D1 Milano brand. The young entrepreneur says he can relate to all those who want to break into an industry with an idea and one of the first things, he said, one should focus on is execution.
He explained that his mentor Antonio Catalani, an Italian fashion guru, told him that there are billions of ideas in the world and the concept behind D1 Milano might not even be in the top one billion, but it was all about how that idea is implemented. Alongside their other mentor Prof. Mikkel Draebye, the D1 Milano team received some valuable advice on the right kind of marketing, communication and production that all aids in making people feel excited about their product.
The second aspect, Dario said, is to make sure there is a story behind the product and the brand. “If you don’t have a story to tell, you have nothing to sell” he said. It is important to be able to relate to people, create key alliances of networking and make sure people are eager about what is being presented to them, he elaborated. Starting off with limited start-up funds, the team believes it was lucky to be working with people who were experts in their fields, excited about the product and brand, and helped them create the successful fashion accessory. “It’s not about how much money you invest in a project, it is how you make people passionate about it and how you execute it,” Dario said.
The last bit of advice Dario gave was that people should not be afraid to make mistakes. Reflecting on their own experience of their first 1000-piece collection, he said there were quite a few errors. He added that no business is perfect and there is always room for improvement. “You have to be flexible” he said, as well as making sure there is a due amount of risk mitigation and attention being put.
Futuro di D1 Milano
Expanding from their first 6-piece line, D1 Milano’s new collection consists of 16 pieces: 4 watches from that collection are the best sellers from the currently-selling 6-piece line, 10 new pieces, and 2 thermochromic. The 4 watches from the initial collection will be kept as “classics” which will be presented each Fashion Week – alongside the new collections – with a slight change every time. The 10 new pieces were carefully crafted based on studying clients preferences. The new collection was presented at Fashion Week 2015 and will be in commerce in September. The 2 styles of Thermochromic watches will start selling in June.
In terms of retail, currently the D1 Milano has a strong base of local partners, which ensure that they are positioned strategically and are distributed in the best fashion shops. The brand hopes to expand in the Gulf; Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar as well as in countries like Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Since they are expanding so quickly and hope to maintain this pace and positioning, the brand is currently reliant on their distributors but hope to have their own boutique at some point. The shop will not only focus on selling the watch, but will also place great emphasis on the customer experience as a whole, from the employees to the ambiance created and everything related to making sure the customers get the complete D1 Milano experience.
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