Meet Wemanage Group’s Partners: Leonardo Arienti, Managing Partner at Wemanage, K-448 & 1984/PR
A project by Wemanage Group
Introducing our Partners: Wemanage Group’s deep dive into the professional backgrounds of the people whose vision made it what it is today.
The first of our partners telling us all about himself is Leonardo Arienti, Managing Partner at Wemanage, K-448 and 1984/PR.
What drew you towards the world of fashion and luxury?
I have always been an attentive fashion consumer — but while I liked the products related to fashion, I was never a so-called ‘fashionista’. I’ve always observed fashion from the perspective of a bit of a businessman, focusing on the international side of it. My interest was not connected to the product, but rather to the fashion system itself, the people that revolved around it, and to the effects that it has on society. Unlike a creative director, my approach is more focused on business strategy than on creativity.
When you were studying at university, did you already know you would work in this field?
I studied law, so I have a completely different background. But as I mentioned, I’ve always been passionate about fashion as a consumer and I’ve always had the desire to launch my own project or brand. Then, after I graduated in law, I spent some time in NYC and when I came back here to Italy, I attended a master in fashion marketing and retail management to complete my studies. My first working experience was within a company that is now our client, called WP Lavori in Corso. At the time, I was part of the team in charge of a project called Woolrich Woollen Mills, which was a capsule created in collaboration with a Japanese designer, conceived for the top international retailers — e.g. Colette, Barneys, Matches.
How did you come up with the idea of opening Wemanage 8 years ago?
As I mentioned, my first experience was at WP Lavori in Corso, and I was there for three years. It was super formative because I entered into a fairly structured reality and I was taken to follow a very special project that allowed me to get in touch with top international players, like communication agencies in London, NYC and Japan, showrooms, and distributors. It helped me gain important knowledge and contacts, also because it was everything but the traditional fashion brand. Then, it followed another experience in a small consulting agency that dealt with startups and SMEs in the luxury fashion sector and offered a management and outsourcing service, where I realized that working in startups or small and medium enterprises (rather than in big players such as Gucci, Prada, Vuitton) could be a great opportunity. So, I decided to start my own business with Matteo (Patalano) and Paolo (Ruggiero), who had two different backgrounds from mine. I met Paolo back in NYC, he came from the real estate world, while Matteo was graduating in Bocconi. Our initial idea was to identify a business potential and to create something on our own, combining our experiences in different industries, which I think was also our strength. I also believe that the fact that not being too much of fashion insider, has helped us relate with certain kind of brands and people.
How did you choose your partners?
When I had the idea of launching the company on my own I decided to involve Paolo and Matteo because we shared a common entrepreneurial attitude. I met Francio (Ferrari) at WP Lavori in Corso (Digital expert and Head of Strategy at K-448), and we always kept in touch, and he then introduced me to Alessandro (Manzi) (Fashion Designer and Creative Director at K-448): when we decided to create K-448 to support brands in their digital communication strategies and content production, we asked Francio to find a creative person who would lead the art and creative direction of the agency. That’s how Alessandro’s involvement began. Marina (Piano) is also involved in Wemanage. She is a very senior managerial figure with whom I had personal contacts, who has always supported us who then joined us, supporting us with her know-how and experience. As of 1984/PR, our digital PR agency born a year and a half ago, we came in contact with Alessandra (Airò) thanks to the friendship one of us (Paolo Ruggiero) had with her. We tested each other for a year and then decided to create a company together.
How has it been seeing your company grow and evolve?
I don’t think we’ve reached our final goal at all. Our ambition is to internationalize the company and grow larger. On one hand, there is great satisfaction, but on the other, there is a continuous awareness of the steps we need to take. I still feel we are in a phase of preparation for something much bigger. Our vision is not that of a boutique agency, but that of becoming an international network. That’s why our policy is to favour less the growth of ourselves as partners, in order to invest in our team. Matteo, Paolo and I started out, humbly, going to trade fairs in Paris, leaning on a friend’s house and knocking on the doors of brands in a very direct way. Today we work as a group with the most important brands in the world who also happen to ask us for advice, and we have a team that at the end of the year will be increasingly consolidated by 40 or more people; but on the other hand, I feel that I am still in the startup phase and I have 4 years to make the real leap.
What are WMG’s next steps for the future?
Certainly, the steps we have taken and we’re willing to take aim at consolidating growth in our teams. Teamwork is essential to me, this is a job that we manage to do thanks to the people willing to fully dedicate themselves to the work they do. Our goal is to continue to insert more technical and advanced expertise in different areas: we have never expected to be all-knowing, but we have always managed to strengthen our skills by working with people who know what they are doing. We are also going to increase our range of services on the basis of trends, and the aim is certainly to internationalize, but the idea is to do this through acquisitions. Lastly, we definitely need to strengthen our expertise and commitment in sustainability and the whole theme of responsible fashion. In this regard, as a Group we collaborated with Fashion in Process Research Lab (FiP) within the Design Department at Politecnico di Milano, on the series of seminars Towards Sustainable Fashion. The initiative provided us an overall framework of the sustainable fashion scene and the protagonists shaping the entire production chain according to criteria aimed at identifying and defining the design, production and communication practices that are emerging or being implemented in a sustainable context. Fashion in Process Research Lab is also helping Wemanage Group develop a catalogue of sustainability consulting services for the group’s clients.
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