Italian denim purveyor Meltin’Pot celebrates its 21st Anniversary this year.
Fusion Associates caught up with the brand’s CEO Augusto Romano to talk about the challenges denim brands face today and how to tackle them.
How has Meltin’Pot progressed since it was founded in 1994?
When we started out, we managed our own production, which allowed us to experiment endlessly and refine the product; we were known for our forward-thinking ways with denim and the company saw good growth for many years. The industry changed drastically in the mid ’00s, and as a result we’ve had to restructure the company to align it with today’s consumer culture and production logic. We no longer manage our own production but we’re still armed with the technical skills and denim knowhow that come with nearly 50 years’ experience. Admittedly, we’ve been through a tough period but it seems the market has picked up a little in the last six months so the future is brighter.
What defines the post-restructuring Meltin’Pot product?
The logic is still the same and we’re still offering carefully conceived jeans product, but the brand has evolved in line with the changes of the market. It’s essential to offer variety these days and we now bring out a wide range of fits as well as a multitude of washes and different weights of denim. But most importantly, we’ve reconsidered the price point. Denim product today is either very cheap or very expensive and since the high-end market is not our playground, we’ve lowered our prices slightly to fit comfortably within the higher end of the mainstream market.
Meltin’Pot is known for innovation and a certain quality – how can these signatures be maintained at a lower price point?
We employ precise methods to produce affordable but beautiful jeans. There are lots of cheap and ugly denim around. Thanks to nearly 50 years’ of expertise, we know how to finesse the different stages in the production cycle to achieve good results. We now produce in Italy, Turkey and Albania.
What is ratio between men’s and women’s and are you planning to alter the balance?
There used to be a 50/50 divide between the two but since the women’s market has suffered the most, seeing a period when women hardly bought jeans at all, we’ve reduced production accordingly. Demand has returned though so we’ve now settled for a 70/30 split between men’s and women’s.
Which types of fits and washes are strong at the moment for men and women respectively?
There is a lot of buzz about regular and wider fits, but male and female consumers alike still prefer slimmer varieties. Washes are either clean or very strong, with pronounced whiskers, distressing and bleach. The heavier washes sell well among the older consumer group whereas the cleaner ones appeal to the younger generation.
Who is your current target consumer?
We need to start talking to the younger consumer since this group is the future.
The denim market has a cycle of four years “on” and four years “off”. Because of this, combined with the prolonged struggles brought on by the recession, we’ve essentially lost touch with the younger generation, which has established a strong relationship with new contemporary brands.
How will you attempt to do that?
Advertising and marketing have to be re-evaluated and we, just like any other brand, have to figure out how to use social media properly. Perhaps most importantly, we need to make sure Meltin’Pot is sold at the right doors – Asos and Urban Outfitters are two examples. We’d like to break into the UK market and to introduce our reinvigorated selves we took part in the London tradeshow for SS16. We’ve also opened a showroom in The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.
What other challenges need to be tackled?
The synergy between production and wholesale is a big challenge. Retailers operating within the affordable market don’t want to buy two collections every six months – they expect to see new ranges often and start stocking them immediately. Wholesale business is suffering, particularly so in Italy. Understandably, retailers don’t want to take risks so if you want to bring your brand to market in a captivating way, the best way is to develop your own store concept.
You’ve done just that with the opening of your first store in Lecce, Italy. What’s next?
At least three further stores will open in the near future. We’re still at the beginning of our retail business journey and since we don’t have expertise in the area we’ve partnered with a company that specialises in retail to help us get it right. It will be interesting to see how it develops.