Even if I wasn’t interested in luxury and fashion, and even if I wasn’t actively pursuing professional connections to those industries, choosing Milan for business school affords me enviable proximity and access to brands that are far removed from the campuses of other schools I was considering: Emory, University of Texas-Austin, Northwestern, to name a few.
In Italy, especially in Milan, like food and Fiat, the influence and business of luxury is omnipresent. It’s no special occasion to have the CEOs of Moschino, Gucci, or Elie Saab stop by for a chat.
And that is exactly how I want it to be. Luxury isn’t a frivolity. It’s serious business like finance or consulting. It relies more on emotional connection, but it employs millions and contributes to the GDPs of many of the world’s most important economies.
It was with great excitement that I RSVPed for a visit to the Hugo Boss design and management facility near to Milan, just across the border in Coldrerio, Switzerland. This region is called Ticino, and comprises also the city of Lugano, known for its proximity to Alpine ski resorts.
The visit was coordinated by the SDA Bocconi Career Service office, which is the conduit between students and potential employers throughout the MBA courses.
We arrived to find a sleek, tech-esque campus befitting a major global brand playing in the arena of ‘accessible luxury’. Hugo Boss is the German brand founded in 1924, best known for its suiting line for men.
Over the ~90 year history, Hugo Boss has established itself as high quality but value conscious and appeals to a range of consumers with now four lines: Boss (black), Boss Green, Boss Orange, and Hugo (red).
Our main speaker in Ticino was Alberto Dinale, the Boss (black) men’s shoes and leather goods merchandising manager. His task each season is to outline the full range of S-K-Us the line will produce, forecast their sales to inform production, and track sell-through after the fact.
He also consults the creative teams to make relevant style changes or updates to the lines, and compares price points to meticulously position the Boss offer in relation to more squarely “luxury” lines like Bally, Prada, and Ferragamo.
His presentation and information was fascinating. Though I am no fanboy of Hugo Boss, as much of it is too bland for my taste, from a business perspective it is quite unique. With one foot in luxury and the other in mass market, its wares are produced partly in Italy, but also in Turkey, Poland, Peru, and I would guess China, Indonesia, etc.
It is a behemoth in comparison to brands like Loro Piana, Bottega Veneta, or even Cartier, but competes with brands like Burberry, Ted Baker, and Michael Kors for the attention of middle-high end buyers.
It’s points-of-sale are many, as 70% of its business in the wholesale market. This means Nordstrom, Macy’s, and the equivalents all over the world.
I had a great time visiting Ticino, and was genuinely impressed with the setup Hugo Boss has there.
Next on our agenda with Career Service is Ermenegildo Zegna, another house known for its suiting, albeit with a reputation for fabrics and operating in a very different arena.