The new PINKO headquarters is in line with the spirit of the brand. The 14,000 square metre building designed by architect Guido Canali was inaugurated in Fidenza in 2010.
Futuristic design and state-of-the art technology blend in with the natural landscape to define an idea of a factory in the countryside that perfectly expresses PINKO’s mission: constant innovation made of Italian quality, participation and attention to the human element.
“You chose a brand that is a masterpiece in ‘understatement’ yet yours is not just any company. You have found a way to grow and evolve, notwithstanding the financial crisis, exporting style and invoicing 160 million euro. Your secret? Concentration, not doing everything. But offering the highest ‘value’ at the best price, taking advantage of technology and paying close attention to the sales network. Because the better your preparation, the better you sell”.
Don’t call it a “designer name”, it sounds too obsolete. The future of fashion is no longer wrapped in a label. In other words, the name itself isn’t enough. It is as blazoned as you might imagine, but it has lost the driving force it once had. These days you need more than just a label to make a company that exports style and invoices 160 million euro run smoothly.
And to think that Pietro Negra, born 59 years ago in Salsomaggiore, invented the Pinko brand with the saying “un qualsiasi pinco pallino” (just any little so and so) in mind. It was the early 1990s and he and his wife Cristina Rubini decided to take a leap into the fashion world. “What saved me was an intuition which actually ended up being my way of becoming aware: designers no longer had the right weapons to appeal to the public, consumers had had an awakening of their own and stopped buying designer labels out of a sense of loyalty, like a fan of some football club”.
Negra is proud of his intuition: “the director has to vanish… instead of trying to look good like some kind of pompous sovereign, since that king is naked”. The group’s invoices increased 0.8% during the annus horribilis, 2009 but by 2010 it registered an 8% increase. How did this happen? “I believe in the business model. I put my trust in a General Manager (Massimo Ambanelli, with career experience at Barilla) who didn’t come from the fashion world. He has lived in China and the U.S.A. In other words, he belongs to our global reality”. The recipe? “Enough of this ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’ philosophy so typical of the 1980s when designers would give their signature to perfumes, ceramic tiles, jackets and bed linens. The winner is a counter-value”. Could you explain? “Clothing and accessories are part of the superfluous sphere. In order to get someone to buy them, they must have a ‘value’, the highest possible value at the lowest price.”
Did you coin the phrase “Just under the top”? “Yes, we would like to be an alternative to haute couture but with competitive prices. Our collections are created by top quality designers but we don’t present garments that cost 4,000 euro. Ours are listed at 300-400 euro”. And you must excel among low-cost lines… “That’s not all: there are outlets, malls and on-line shopping, too. You have to look reality straight in the eye: the shops are empty, multi-brand stores are in trouble and yet online shopping areas are very crowded”. The point here is…? “We are working on becoming the new crossroads. We have plans to get people back into stores by offering aperitif-concerts, exhibits etc”. Speaking of stores: “There are 1,100 Pinko retail stores throughout the world, 120 of which are single-brand shops.
Our turnover breaks down like this: 70% is thanks to Italy and the remaining 30% to other countries. We want to reverse these percentages”. Who loves you the most? “Aside from Italy, France, the UK, Belgium and Holland are faithful customers. But there is also Greece, Spain and China, where we have opened 15 single-brand stores. Our notoriety is spontaneous and, in my opinion, depends on the fact that whoever knows us sticks with us”.
Another secret? “We pay close attention to the sales network. Nothing is left to chance. Our tutors leave Fidenza in the province of Parma where our company headquarters is located and periodically look in on store owners carrying our brand every season. In some cases, our ‘tutors’ even live close to these stores. The better your preparation, the better you sell”.
Negra shows us a plasma display column/computer capable of simulating clothing combinations. It’s called the Store Stylist. “Our single-brand shops have them. All you have to do is place a garment’s identification code on it and you can see a model wearing all available variations of that garment”.
Now let’s talk about Fidenza: “The company has always been here. Our headquarters for the past three years has been a 15,700 square metre building immersed in the Emilia countryside. 210 employees work here. We have a nursery school, event auditoriums, café, warehouse, a style office, a business office, an administrative office and one for computer engineering that invented our Store Stylists as well as an office for our model productions, which is one of the most important one of all…”
Why is that? “This is where the ideas of our stylists come into being. We test practicality and correct flaws. It is a fundamental stage, the guarantee of our Made in Italy production: for all purposes, the prototype comes out of Fidenza, even if it is sewn elsewhere (where manpower costs less)”.
Pietro Negra says that he “works from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and even more than that sometimes and he loves individual sports like the ones that force you to outdo yourself”: cycling, motorcycling and auto racing.
For a man like this who was born in the land of great automobiles and motorcycles, his free time is split between four and two-wheelers. “I race for the fun of it. I’m looking forward to an 8-hour ‘ride’ in Portugal next weekend”.
What would he never give up? His women. His wife Cristina and his daughters Cecilia and Caterina. All names that begin with the letter C (even his dog is named Cora). “And my Saturday evening aperitif with my friends – my real friends, he specifies – I do everything I possibly can to make it. I love my life in the province”.
The one that took him such a long way.
From: ‘Il giornale – STYLE’ April 2011