Stefano Martinetto of Tomorrow London on the challenges and opportunities for independent fashion designers
Ever since founding Tomorrow London Holdings Ltd in association with Giancarlo Simiri in 2010, Stefano Martinetto has grown his showroom into a multi-purpose platform for fashion designers, offering production, distribution, marketing and communication services. Martinetto features some of the most interesting contemporary labels (A-Cold-Wall, Ader Error, Ambush, Facetasm, Sunnei, Marni, to name but a few) in his showroom’s licence portfolio, and he talked to FashionNetwork.com about his experience and market vision, unambiguously taking the side of designers.
FashionNetwork.com: What is Tomorrow London Holdings Ltd, of which you are CEO and majority shareholder?
Stefano Martinetto: We are too often seen as a mere showroom, but we are much more than just that. We are a little like a fashion version of Netflix, previously focusing on distribution alone but now creating our own content. Tomorrow London is a platform dedicated to young designers. We have an atelier to take care of product development, both apparel and accessories, we have manufacturing subsidiaries in Italy and Hong Kong, a department for communication and strategy advice, distribution subsidiaries in Hong Kong, the UK and the USA, and four showrooms, in London, Paris, Milan and New York.
We also invest directly in emerging labels. We currently have an exclusive worldwide distribution licence for 55 brands. And we hold significant stakes in three of them, including British label A-Cold-Wall, founded in 2015 by Samuel Ross and Andrew Harper.
FNW: How do you work with these labels?
SM: We make them desirable. This is why our distributive approach is restricted and highly selective. For example, with A-Cold-Wall, we deliberately decided not to exceed 100 clients. Very simply, the label only accepts one order in four. Brands have a clear understanding of this approach, and of the need to strike a balance between traditional distribution and, for example, an event-driven one. The wholesale channel isn’t dead, but has morphed into something much more interesting, more like a partnership with designers. We are increasingly oriented towards a collective effort mode.
FNW: How do you see the world of fashion evolving?
SM: The new normal today is that some independent designers are capable of competing with established labels. Designers who have managed to cut down product development costs and, through Instagram, have minimised their communication costs, which makes them very competitive and, all things considered, more effectively promoted than some fashion giants. Major luxury labels are beginning to react to this phenomenon, albeit late in the day, by tapping designers like these.
FNW: What do you mean?
SM: Look at Kim Jones and Korean designer Yoon Ahn at Dior Homme, or Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton. Or the founder of Vetements, Demna Gvasalia. Ever since he arrived at Balenciaga, sales soared. By hiring designers like these, major labels are able to tap their coolness factor at negligible cost. What these designers bring to major labels is much more significant in terms of value than the salaries they are paid. But why should young designers help the big luxury brands and risk jeopardising their own labels? I urge young designers to stay independent! It’s much more interesting and profitable for them!
FNW: In what kind of environment do emerging designers operate?
SM: They face merciless competition, but on the other hand, they have never benefited from so much support. From all the mentoring and support initiatives created to help them, to the countless competitions dedicated to emerging designers. I think it’s an amazing time for them.
FNW: How has buyers’ behaviour evolved?
SM: They are desperately seeking for new fashion names. These days, retailers try to strike a balance in their purchases between products by established brands, notably to bolster their e-sales, and by original creative brands. They are always hungry for novelty.
FNW: How is Tomorrow London organised, and what are your upcoming projects?
SM: We are working on a project linked to athletics, trying to invent a new concept. As for Tomorrow London, I founded it in 2010 with Giancarlo Simiri, joining forces with the Saturday Group to pool together a range of services. With Giancarlo Simiri, we currently have a 70% stake in the company, and the remaining 30% is in the hands of investors like Three Hills Capital Partners and Red Circle Investments, the private equity firm owned by Renzo Rosso. Our headquarters are in London, but we have a very important subsidiary in Milan. We employ 150 people and we generate a gross revenue of between €75 million and €80 million.
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