From Italy with Love Featured

Luxos interviews Director and General Manager of Pal Zileri Asia Pacific, Lorenzo della Croce, who has brought the Italian brand to the Chinese market

It was a special evening at the prestigious Chang An Club in Beijing. Pal Zileri presented its spring/summer 2010 collection and its made-to-measure service to 30 members of the private club, distinguished guests and the press. For Lorenzo della Croce, Director and General Manager of Pal Zileri Asia Pacific, it was an important event, especially since he has seen how rapidly the brand has grown in China these past few years. The evening started with a fashion show presenting the new collection. Then, two Italian master tailors who came all the way from Italy showed the guests the art of Pal Zileri’s made-to-measure service. They demonstrated how Pal Zileri used precious materials, such as a fabric that has a mix of vicuna, muskox and pashmina wool, to tailor one-of-a-kind menswear with superb results. This is the brand’s unique way of introducing Italian tailoring and getting to know its customers. For Mr. della Croce, it has been above all a personal experience bringing Pal Zileri to China, as he tells Luxos how it all started.

Can you tell us about how Pal Zileri entered the Asia Pacific market?
Ten years ago, with a good friend of mine, we entered the market in China for the first time. In 2002, we opened our first shop in Plaza 66 in Shanghai. We went on to open several franchise shops. In January 2007, Forall Asia Pacific opened offices in Hong Kong and China. At that time, we kept only three shops and one outlet in China. Over the past three years, we opened almost 30 shops in China! Our rapid growth is thanks to this important move of opening local offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai so that we can be in close contact with our franchisees. From Hong Kong, it’s only a two-hour flight to Beijing and Shanghai. I travel to both cities every month to work with our offices in China.

What’s the latest news from Pal Zileri in Asia Pacific?
We are introducing made-to-measure suits. The response of our Chinese customers has been tremendous. They don’t just want to buy something nice to wear. They want to know everything: the quality, the craftsmanship, even the values of Pal Zileri as a brand. We are seeing a new era in China, where customers want to know more and more about the products. At exclusive events, we can explain everything to them and introduce very exclusive materials that they might not come across while shopping in the boutique.

Private clubs such as Chang An in Beijing and Shanghai have been approaching Pal Zileri and demanding to have its made-to-measure services. We are also working with private banks such as Bank of China, whose customers have their suits tailor-made by Pal Zileri. We are now planning to have a full-time tailor just to serve our Chinese customers.

What are some of the exclusive events held recently?
We had a special event at Chang An Club back in March in Beijing with a fashion show and tailoring session. In the first week of April, we presented our collections at an exclusive event in Hainan island where VIPs were flown in from all over China to view airplanes by Airbus and private jet companies. An event like this gives us a dynamic setting to present our products. While looking at a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Rolls-Royce, or a AMG Mercedes-Benz, guests can get to know more about Pal Zileri, its Abito Privato service and then get their suits made! During the Shanghai Expo, Pal Zileri will have a nice house-showroom on one of the oldest streets of Shanghai, on the Rock Bund next to The Peninsula Hotel’s park. We are planning to hold several events with car brands and other brands, and we will also set up a coffee bar for our guests.

Can you tell us about Pal Zileri’s most luxurious collection, Ceremonia?
We have been able to tap into a very niche market with our Ceremonia collection, which offers 60 to 70 choices of materials. From innovative fabrics crafted with leather, our avant-garde approach allows us to work with fibres and silk in brand new ways. Bow ties, shoes and tuxedos are perfect for evening parties, weddings and special occasions. When you wear our Ceremonia collection, it not only makes you feel special, it also feels like a second skin, for their superb quality and fit.

Statistics show that Singapore and Hong Kong are the cities that are easiest to do business with. Would you agree?
Well, I think it’s both correct and incorrect. A market demands good products. Even if a city is easy to do business with, a good product has to be there. Building friendship is an important step to developing a business in this region. It’s not enough just to put down a signature on a contract. Following up with the clients, taking time to understand the people is even more important.

In your opinion, what is the general economic atmosphere in Greater China region these days?
Despite the crisis, things are still developing quickly in China. Everyone has the opportunity to start a business and be able to see it grow. Dreams come true every day in China, and there are people who become millionaires every day. They don’t just dream of having something. They have a dream, and they make it come true.

On a more personal note, can you tell us about your experience so far living in Asia?
I’ve been living in Asia for four years. Last year I got married to a very charming Chinese lady called Tina. She’s trying to learn Italian while I am learning a bit of Cantonese and Mandarin. My experience in Hong Kong has been extraordinary. It is a beautiful and unique city that offers such a flexible lifestyle. I’ve also spent weekends in historic cities like Chengdu, and the famed tea-growing regions of Hangzhou, also well known for its beautiful silk.

How do you get to know the culture?
I realized that I have to understand the mentality of the people first. I mean, language is just part of the problem. Since Forall Asia Pacific opened offices in Hong Kong and China, our business has grown so quickly, because we are able to truly know our customers and franchisees. In just three years, we have expanded to 15 regions in China.

If there’s something our Luxos readers must know about, what would you tell them?
Enjoy Hong Kong and China! Try to experience the lifestyle from the local people’s point of view. People in big cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou are so friendly – all you have to do is reach out. These are people who enthusiastically embrace both the Chinese and European culture, starting from world-class cuisine! China is not just a huge country; it’s a country with diverse lifestyles. From region to region, people have a very different mentality. These are the things that make China such an exciting country today.

Related articles:
Abito Privato, the Pal Zileri made-to-measure label
Brand history: Pal Zileri