Roy Roger celebrates 70 years in denim at Pitti Uomo with Bruce Weber – WWD

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“I’ll remember this Pitti [Uomo] for my whole life: first for making everything work and then for all the celebrations,” said Patrizia Biondi, president of Sevenbell Group, which controls Italian denim label Roy Roger’s.

The brand celebrates its 70th anniversary during the menswear fair, which opens on Tuesday and runs through Thursday. To celebrate the milestone, in addition to presenting a celebratory collection on Tuesday night at the Palazzo Vecchio, the company will host an event with a live performance by Planet Funk, followed by the release of a short film directed by photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber.

The collaboration with Weber is part of a broader repositioning and image-boosting strategy that Roy Roger has embarked on in recent years, when the company hired the likes of Rankin and Francesco Carrozzini to photograph its campaigns.

Biondi underscored Weber’s role in representing a “certain world of denim, particularly America’s” throughout his career, citing, for example, vintage Ralph Lauren ads. “So when the opportunity to work with him arose just in time for our 70th birthday, it was like coming full circle for us,” she said.

Roy Roger’s was founded by Biondi’s father Francesco Bacci, owner of “Manifatture 7 Bell”, which produced workwear made of cotton and gabardine in Campi Bisenzio near Florence after his return from a trip to New York. It was there that Bacci came across denim and made a deal with the famous Cone Mills Corp. to supply the fabric. Back in his homeland, Bacci launched the first blue jeans made in Italy from American denim. To further emphasize his fascination with the USA, he named the label after an American tailor who sewed overalls for Californian farmers at the end of the 19th century.

An archive image of Manifatture 7 Bell, now Sevenbell Group.
Courtesy of Roy Rogers

Bacci and his wife Giuliana have also been credited with being the first in the country to launch a women’s collection of denim trousers in the ’60s, expanding their creative approach from purely workwear-like pieces to more casual garments.

The tweaks and innovative solutions introduced by the founders and the following two generations of the family over seven decades are highlighted in the anniversary collection at Pitti Uomo.

The range will trace the evolution of the brand by recreating five signature pieces from different decades, each marked on the garment with the relevant year, as well as additional styles and a range of t-shirts, plaid shirts, jumpers and accessories to round it out appearance off.

Key pieces include five-pocket jeans with the brand’s signature triangle logo and zip pockets – a patent Roy Roger introduced in the ’50s to allow men to keep their personal belongings safe while on the job – as well as high-waisted denim trousers for women, a washed denim jacket and patchwork shirts.

The replica of the first blue jean pants launched by Roy Roger's in 1952.

Replica of the first blue jean pant launched by Roy Roger’s in 1952.
Courtesy of Roy Rogers

As an additional highlight of the milestone, the organizers of the fair decided to give the company the Pitti Uomo award in this edition, in recognition of its history and the positive impact it has had on the territory. Biondi is particularly proud of the achievement, given that Giorgio Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang, Gianfranco Ferré, Brunello Cucinelli and Diesel, to name but a few, were former awardees.

“Looking back, there were many defining moments, times when we had to deal with new companies on the rise and mad competition that marked radical changes. Just remember that jeans used to be the most democratic garment and now every luxury powerhouse makes denim too,” noted Biondi. She also referenced Diesel and Replay’s disruptive approach when they first came to market, “when they opened standalone stores and reached consumers directly, while we partnered with wholesalers. So there were a lot of moments where we had to regroup, reboot and take different paths.”

The company reported sales of 20.5 million euros in 2021 and Biondi forecasts that sales will reach the target of 25 million euros by the end of the year.

The most important change to the brand took place in the ’90s, when Biondi’s husband Fulvio gave the brand a boost with a repositioning in better stores and a structured marketing strategy that included an increased focus on communication – all aspects that Biondi says were “unthinkable”. would have been my father.”

But Fulvio Biondi believed that “there is no future if you don’t have a real story”, so storytelling became key as the collections changed to explore new designs, washes and treatments to adapt to trends and needs adapt to the market.

“While male consumers are traditionally loyal – they find a style that suits them and they buy it for the rest of their lives – women want options and our collections had to reflect that. We had to have alternatives in our range,” said the President.

A Roy Roger denim jacket.

A Roy Roger denim jacket.
Courtesy of Roy Rogers

“My husband was also very interested in launching home collections. We had a denim table and a sofa in our house because he felt that to create a style of life, we always have to offer something more,” Biondi recalls, adding that eventually one opted for a more cautious and clothing-oriented approach.

Still, Roy Roger explored connections to other brands, including collaborations with Aspesi, Sebago for denim boat shoes and loafers, and Vilebrequin for swimsuits, among others.

Over the past decade, the couple’s sons, Niccolò and Guido, who serve as Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director respectively, have also increased distribution and opened standalone stores for the brand.

“It was a real challenge for us because we never had direct control over retail and we had to develop a whole concept and design an overall look,” Biondi recalls. Roy Roger’s now has stores in Florence, Forte dei Marmi, Bologna and Padova and is looking for locations in Milan to reopen a unit there after a stay in central Corso Venezia did not suit the brand’s target customer.

The brand is also available on 900 multibrand doors in Italy and while the company mainly focuses on its domestic market, Biondi is keen to look beyond Italy’s borders and expand its e-commerce.

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