Roy Roger’s will celebrate 70 years of denim at Pitti Uomo with Bruce Weber – WWD

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“I will remember this Pitti [Uomo] for my whole life: first for the anxiety of making everything work, and then for all the celebrations,” said Patrizia Biondi, president of Sevenbell Group, which controls Italian denim brand Roy Roger’s.

The brand is due to celebrate its 70th anniversary at the menswear show, which opens on Tuesday and runs through Thursday. To celebrate this event, in addition to presenting a festive collection, the company will organize an event on Tuesday evening at the Palazzo Vecchio with a live performance by Planet Funk followed by the release of a short film directed by photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber.

The collaboration with Weber is part of a broader repositioning and image-enhancing strategy launched by Roy Roger in recent years, when the company brought in Rankin and Francesco Carrozzini to photograph its campaigns.

Biondi highlighted Weber’s role in portraying a “certain world of denim, especially American” throughout his career, citing vintage Ralph Lauren advertisements, for example. “So when the opportunity to work with him came along, just in time for our 70th year, it was like coming full circle for us,” she said.

Roy Roger’s was founded by Biondi’s father, Francesco Bacci, owner of “Manifatture 7 Bell”, which produced cotton and gabardine workwear in Campi Bisenzio, near Florence, after returning from a trip to New York. There Bacci stumbled across all denim matters and made a deal with the famous Cone Mills Corp. to supply the fabric. Back in his native country, Bacci launched what is considered to be the first blue denim pants made in Italy from American denim. To further mark his fascination with the United States, he named the brand after an American tailor who, at the end of the 19th century, made overalls for Californian farmers.

A stock image of Manifatture 7 Bell, now Sevenbell Group.
Courtesy of Roy Roger

Bacci and his wife Giuliana were also the first in the country to launch a collection of women’s denim pants in the ’60s, expanding their creative approach from strictly workwear-type pieces to more casual wear.

The adjustments and innovative solutions that the founders and the next two generations of the family have introduced over seven decades will be highlighted in Pitti Uomo’s anniversary collection.

The range will trace the evolution of the brand through the replica of five iconic pieces from different decades, each marked on the garment with the respective year, as well as additional styles and a series of T-shirts, plaid shirts, sweaters and accessories to complete the looks.

Key pieces will include five-pocket jeans branded with the brand’s iconic triangular logo and zipped pockets – a Roy Roger’s patent introduced in the 1950s to allow men to safely store personal items while working – as well as high waisted denim pants for women. , a faded denim jacket and patchwork shirts.

The replica of the first blue jeans trousers launched by Roy Roger's in 1952.

The replica of the first blue jeans trousers launched by Roy Roger’s in 1952.
Courtesy of Roy Roger

As a further culmination of this important step, the organizers of the show have decided to award the Pitti Uomo prize of this edition to the company, recognizing its history and the beneficial influence it has had on the territory. Biondi is particularly proud of this achievement, especially since past recipients have included Giorgio Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Gianfranco Ferré, Brunello Cucinelli and Diesel, to name a few.

“Looking back, there were plenty of pivotal moments, times when you had to come face to face with new companies that were on the rise and crazy competition that marked radical changes. Just think that jeans used to be the most democratic garment and now all the luxury powerhouses are making denim too,” Biondi noted. She also referenced Diesel and Replay’s disruptive approach when they launched “as they opened stand-alone stores and reached consumers directly while we were working with wholesalers. So there were many times when we had to regroup, restart and take different routes.

In 2021, the company achieved a turnover of 20.5 million euros and Biondi expects that the year-end revenues will reach the target of 25 million euros.

The main change of pace for the brand came in the 90s, when Biondi’s husband, Fulvio, boosted the brand with a repositioning in better stores and a structured marketing strategy that included a focus increased on communication – all aspects, according to Biondi, would have been “unthinkable for my father.”

But Fulvio Biondi believed “there’s no future if you don’t have a real story”, so storytelling became essential as collections changed to explore new designs, washes and treatments to adapt to market trends and needs.

“While male consumers are traditionally loyal – they find a style that suits them and continue to buy it for the rest of their lives – women want options, and our collections needed to reflect that. We needed alternatives in the assortment,” said the president.

A Roy Roger denim jacket.

A Roy Roger denim jacket.
Courtesy of Roy Roger

“My husband was also very keen to launch home collections. We had a table and a denim sofa in our house, because he thought we always needed to offer something more, to create a kind of lifestyle,” Biondi recalls, adding that a more careful and clothing-oriented was eventually decided instead.

Still, Roy Roger has explored ties with other brands, including collaborations with Aspesi, Sebago for boat shoes and denim loafers, and Vilebrequin for swimwear, among others.

Over the past decade, the couple’s sons, Niccolò and Guido, who serve as CEO and creative director respectively, have also boosted distribution by launching standalone stores for the brand.

“It was a real challenge for us because we had never had direct control over retail and we had to imagine a whole concept and design total looks”, recalls Biondi. Roy Roger’s now has stores in Florence, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna and Padua, and is looking for locations in Milan to reopen a unit there after a stint in the center of Corso Venezia did not fit the brand’s target clientele.

The brand is also available in 900 multi-brand doors in Italy, and although the company is primarily focused on its domestic market, Biondi is eager to look beyond Italy’s borders and expand its e-commerce.

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