Florence – Loretta Caponi’s shop here is hard to miss – both because it’s nothing like it is, the most unique hand-embroidered linens that display everything from hot air balloons to toy trains or faithful replicas of Tuscan scenes, and because it’s a venerable stop – lost in the city for generations.
A few steps away from the center in Tornabuni, in the beautiful 13th century Palazzo Aldobrandini di Lippo, home to the Caponi family, the store includes an atelier and includes all ready-to-wear brands for home, men’s and women’s. Clothing, loungewear and underwear and a fun kids corner from 2019.
Sales have doubled in the past two years and the brand is expanding in its core market, the US. It is ramping up wholesale sales of its home line, with the opening of a Harrods store in January, the brand’s expansion on Net-a-Porter and the arrival of Abask.com, which specializes in design and interiors. The fashion business was started by Tom Chapman, the founder of Matfashion.
Last week, Loretta Caponi launched a new website and e-commerce platform.
“We’ve seen 25 percent year-over-year growth since 2019,” said Guido Conti Caponi, grandson of the late Loretta Caponi. He was helping the company and driving the internationalization of the brand, while his mother, Lucia, was in charge of the designs. “Her embroidery is unbeatable,” he said proudly.
In the year While retail accounted for 60 percent of sales in 2019, with stores in Florence and Tuscany’s luxury beach resort Forte dei Marmi, Conti Caponi is changing that balance, with wholesale representing 60 percent of sales. The online channel accounts for 10 percent of revenues.
Over the years, the brand has served royal families from Belgium to England, as well as celebrities including the Kennedys, Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Gettys and celebrities including Sting, Madonna and Jane Fonda. Loretta Caponi opened her first store in 1967 when the underwear category was defined by synthetics and nylons, a time when the underwear category had moved away from the use of cotton, linen and silk.
Inside the current frescoed shop, decorated with antique furniture, customers can browse a wide range of precious fabrics and even design their own pieces. The company has over 22,000 archival embroidery designs that can be placed on tablecloths, towels, sheets, pillows and blankets to name a few. It is also possible to make embroidery based on photos or landscape views. A tablecloth is usually made to measure and can sell for between €5,000 and €6,000.
Retail sales total €5 million.
One of the highlights of the product is the long “Fiocchini [small bows]Inspired by the original piece from the early 1900s, the nightgown continues to be a bestseller. Loretta Caponi was a pioneer in making underwear and bedding that could be worn outdoors. Case in point: the brand’s “Loretta” model, with smock embroidery and a plunging neckline. And she introduced creative color combinations in underwear, pastel hues or tone-on-tone used to rule.
Loretta and Lucia Capponi have worked together for over 30 years and their use of color is impressive – as seen in a tablecloth that combines 100 different colored threads. “My mother inherited the artistic vein of her father, who was an artist and surrounded himself with painters, and inherited my grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit,” says Conti Capponi.
The brand has launched its Spring 2023 bridal collection.
After the covid-19 restrictions, Conti Caponi is eager to start traveling again and stage trunk shows around the world, which are key to connecting with the brand’s customers – although word of mouth is always important for business growth. Next up, for example, is a trip to Palm Beach, Florida in March. Conti Caponi remembers the privacy of the brand’s customers, but suggests decorating not only houses, but also boats and buildings.
The US represents more than 50 percent of sales, followed by the Middle East and Europe. “Americans show their love for Florence, they appreciate heritage, craftsmanship and history, tradition and creativity,” said Conti Capponi.
Everything is made in Tuscany and he emphasized that the goal is to continue to raise the brand distributed in 70 doors around the world.
The company remains privately held and Conti Caponi does not see the need to look for an investor, reinvesting profits into the development of the brand, with out-of-date pieces and no signs, he underlined.
The brand has three ready-to-wear drops, and underwear and home collections are released twice a year.
Conti Caponi believes in maintaining the brand’s craftsmanship and quality without compromise. “We’re not looking to expand our customer base, but our goal is to get deeper into this space. We want to continue to surprise. People want variety.”