Retailer of the Week
21 Mar. 2013
Simone Ballante, Owner of Be Cool, Rome, ItalyStreetwear, outdoor apparel, jeans and vintage clothing connoisseur Simone Ballante is the owner of Rome's Be Cool, a must-go shopping destination for consumers and fashion insiders. This expert retailer believes that offering new ideas is key to meeting his client's needs. "They always ask us to show them what's new. It is what they want most, rather than looking for a particular brand or fit." Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini
What are the current bestsellers and why?
Right now second-hand apparel is selling best, especially items that show an evolution of street-wear and classic apparel. In terms of brands I cannot say my store's bestseller is a specific brand, but it is rather the rediscovering of a mood and a lifestyle. Right now it is a jacket, the "Deck" model. It is a military jacket used by US NATO troops between the 1940s and 1990s. I sell well both this second-hand kind of garment as well as its new replica versions. It is built as a work-wear jacket; it looks like an Eskimo jacket and carries a Nerhu collar. It is usually offered in military green and is lined with an inner fake fur lining.
I think what I sell best are classic styles that guarantee great fits and a cool look. Generally what sells best are historic brands, while less known brands sell well when they offer novelties, and perfect fitting items.
If I had to name any brand working well I may name Double Wear for jeans and Scarti-Lab (scarti-lab.it) for its sportswear and casual total looks.
For intance, Scarti-Lab offers great fustian and corduroy trousers often reminding those worn by rock climbers. Trouser fits selling best for men are comfy ones, not carrot styles, though regular ones. I mostly refer to men's products because my store is selling 70% to men and 30% to women. For footwear I cannot say that sneakers are my bestsellers right now, even if we have always been carrying them in our shop. What is most successful are rather Red Wing boots and - unexpectedly - Frye boots, especially for women. Also selling well for women are laced-up, decolletées and mocassins.
Be Cool, Rome
Do people buy according to their favourite brand, style, or impulse?
Neither one or the other. Rather they look for new ideas. We mostly work with our usual clients. They often come to have a look around and have a look at the store. That's what they want most rather than a particular brand or fit. We know them and know what they wear. And they continue to trust us since the last 20 years.
Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends? How important is the communication with regular customers? How do you communicate with them?
We haven't visited any trade show for the last four years. It is not for a snobbish attitude but because the market's offer of product is huge and one can find so much everywhere. Companies come to visit us directly.
Our clients know us and know they can come to our store and have a look at many magazines, from all over the world (France, Australia, Japan), through which they can find inspiration for their own style and find out what's hot. In the past we sold them, though now we mostly keep the magazines for consultancy - it all makes our lives much easier.
We tend not to communicate with our clientele through websites or social networks. Since we are very familiar with them and they constantly come and visit our store we communicate through word-of-mouth and by offering a wide selection of brands and products.
How do the collections you offer for next Spring/Summer look like?
We will be offering many women's designers, especially young ones from Rome - even if not only from our own city. One of these brands is Sebestian .They focus on new silhouettes and new cuts that can fit every body type and can be worn in any occasion of the day.
Be Cool, Rome
What are the most important trends, in general?
For men we feel there is a strong return to military inspiration for summer and a pleasant rediscovery of the blazer interpreted in various fabrics such as Oxford shirting materials, or chambrays. Also for trousers I see that chinos will continue to be hot, for instance, Brooks Brothers or variants made with alternative materials such as shirting fabrics. In the near future I think that we might also see a return to the classic denim western style jacket which we have been offering recently. On the contrary, for jeans I don't see any comeback yet. They are not selling much right now.
Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
We have recently added People, an Italian brand. Since this March we have been presenting it. It is a sophisticated and chic sportswear brand, mostly aimed at women offering silk items, US-inspired fashion pieces such as, for instance, parkas made with rip-stop fabrics.
How does your store differ from other stores?
We are lucky that we can run this huge store in the very centre of Rome. Our store occupies two floors. At street level there is our 80 square meter-selling space. At underground level about there is a 160 square meters area half of which is occupied by a permanent fashion museum showing a 6.5 meter high wall covered with collectible vintage sneakers plus a selection of clothing items mostly from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The remaining space hosts a showroom many insiders visit for buying second-hand and new US apparel. In addition we have been organizing most different initiatives and exhibitions focused on various topics such as, for instance, street-art, food, books and fashion.
In the last 20 years we have never changed our modus operandi. Fundamentally we have always concentrated our work on street-wear and outdoor apparel and that continues to be our main focus. I think this differentiates our store from what others do.
What do you like about your customers?
I appreciate their sincerity when they tell me that they like our products or rather think they are too expensive.
How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
I think it counts for about 80%, which means a lot. The problem is that we hardly change it very often. We will be doing some small restructuring this summer such as repainting part of it, changing the walls colour and moving some of the lighting system. Our store usually seems austere, though friendly. For this it helps you make you feel at ease.
via del Leone 12/A
Tel. +39 06 68130603
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