From Patagonia to Milan, passing through clubs. These are the main pillars that characterize the success of Marcelo Burlon. But there is much more behind this, a story made of many difficulties.
You may or may not like his aesthetic – I personally love it – but there is one thing that can’t be denied about him: he belongs to the very short list of people who chose not to trade their authenticity with fame. Indeed, his choice to be true to himself, to his origins and his culture made him one of the most groundbreaking phenomenon in the fashion industry – he would probably disagree with the link with the fashion world, since he says “I don’t consider myself part of the industry, simply because I don’t want to follow its rules. I like to play with my own rules”. However, he still is a source of great interest and inspiration for all us fashionistas.
This is the story of a brand which is able to gross about 20 million euros per year, after only 2 years it was launched. It’s the story of a man who built himself alone, who is totally out of any scheme. He says: “I’m not a stylist. I invented a job. People often think that you have to do only one thing, but I like to do many”.
“I decided to launch my brand because I wanted to give something more to the people coming to my parties, not just a one-night-stand”
The Bocconi Students for Fashion Team had the honor of collaborating at the organisation of the conference promoted by Bocconi University – during which Burlon was the guest speaker – and ask him some questions. The main topic was the exploitation of social media as a tool to build a strong brand, by conveying an authentic message.
Hello Marcelo! Thank you for being with us today. First of all, can you tell us a bit about your story?
Well, everything started in nightclubs. I began by being a PR at Magazzini Generali during the 90’s, that at the time was one of the most important clubs in the fashion scene. Then, I worked at the PR office of many important brands, and finally I started doing the Dj – which allowed me to create a strong network. As you probably figured out, night clubs represent an essential aspect of my story. Also consider that brands often use clubs as an instrument to quickly reach the masses.
Then social networks arrived. How did they help you? And do you have any rule?
Social networks allowed me to reach a large audience. There very few rules for using social media: I personally publish all the pictures; post no more than 3-4 pictures per day; when I want to reach my global audience, I post around 4 pm because at that time most of the world is awake. However, they are just an instrument – people appreciate me because they understand I keep it real.
How so? What is it that really distinguishes you?
In my collection I bring my roots: in all my pieces you can see the symbols of Patagonia, the gauchos, Argentina. Obviously, I try to rethink them in a more contemporary way. You can also see this influence in my shows – I consider them as a celebration. Indeed, 80% of the models are my friends.
What type of customers do you speak with?
I wouldn’t say I speak only with one type of customer – I don’t see customers from a specific age range or a particular social class purchasing my pieces. I’m not talking only to street-style kids or fashionistas, but I try to convey my message to a wider audience. However, we definitely share the same passions – music taste (from hip hop to techno), same movies, same aesthetic.
When did you first realise that numbers where growing, and it was time to launch a brand?
Actually, everything was very natural. I just realized that people appreciated what I was doing, so about 2 years and half ago I decided to make a preview launch of a t-shirt collection at Antonioli – who is also my current commercial partner. We sold more than 1,000 pieces in just a few days. I guess, that is the very moment that I realized the I could be successful. Then an important role was also played by buyers, who started asking more and more, and created a huge store traffic. In that moment I realized I became a real brand. Obviously that meant I had to create a full-line collection.
Also celebrities played an important role, right? What is your relationship with them?
You are right. Celebrities are very important, but they are actual customers. I don’t give my clothes to them, they purchase. One of them is LeBron – but I have to confess I didn’t know who he was when his manager first approached me (he laughs).
You do a lot of co-branding. How do you build these relationships?
I choose the brand I want to collaborate with. Fortunately, they were all very happy about my proposal because they wanted to have a collaboration with a young and emerging brand. One example is the capsule collection I created for Eastpak.
Let’s talk about the name of the Brand. How did you choose it?
I wanted to create an illusion of Milan to be seen as a county. What I really want to communicate is that this city isn’t only about business, but there is a whole other world to discover.
Thank you Marcelo for spending this incredible hour with us at Bocconi. We leave you with one simple question: What’s next?
That’s a difficult question. I don’t really know how to answer to that – every week and season there is something new, and numbers are growing very quickly. I guess we’ll find out with time.
by Pierandrea Miglietta