INTERVIEW: Elisabetta Canali on managing a heritage luxury male apparel brand

Campaign Asia-Pacific met up with Elisabetta Canali, global communications director of male luxury fashion brand, Canali. She tells us what it’s like heading the communications for a third-generation family business and working for a male fashion brand as a woman.

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it was like growing up in a very fashion-driven environment? Has it helped in your role today?

My life was very fashionable. I was a very creative child and I always liked to play, create, and draw, so creativity was probably part of my attitude. I knew since I was a little child that creativity was going to be part of my life, even if I did different studies, I followed my interests, creativity, fashion and everything related to that was my passion.

Growing up in a family who dedicated their entire life to fashion is something that is extremely valuable, it’s a great experience for me and my knowledge, I grew up listening to all the stories that my father used to tell especially after his trips abroad. There are probably a lot of children who went to sleep without a bedtime story, but I went sleeping listening to these stories. They made me extremely proud of what my father was doing and made me willing to be part of this business in the future. So I suppose pride and a sense of belonging to such an important family played a big part in the decision to be a part of this company.

Q: Did you always want to be a communications person?

My dream was, and still is, doing something in the most creative way. Communication is one way to express it. It’s not the only one. I like playing with pictures, images. Working on visual projects, iVideos. Everything related to the image is something that appeals to me a lot.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what your typical day is like?

There are a lot of things that I look at during the day, probably too many. I always have a crazy schedule; everyday is about images, visuals, events and interviews. It takes a lot of energy especially because all day guests are coming from different parts of the world, so you need to communicate the same message, taking particular good care of the way that you do it.

Q: Storytelling is a key skill for communication professionals. You have to tell a brand story as a woman in a distinctly male-oriented brand. Do you find this challenging?

I suppose there aren’t very big differences in speaking about male fashion. Personally, I don’t think that being a woman poses any difficulties working with men’s wear. I have difficulties with delivery, message or communicating the peculiarities of men. My job mainly consists of making people aware of what Canali is and what Canali does and the values that are behind our brand. It is a big challenge because of course now it is not enough to make a nice image and leave the image to speak on your behalf. People would like to know more about what is the real value of the brand, and we need to find a different way, and use modern media, and use forms of communication, such as the internet, website, and find a creative way to tell our story.  It has to be presented in a different way but it has to be emotional. Telling the truth.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the brand?

It was founded by my grandfather 70 or 80 years ago. And then my father and my two uncles, his two brothers, took over the business in the 50s, and now myself and my cousins are the third generation. So three generations, we share the same values and we are extremely proud of the values that form the basis of our company. We are extremely proud to make everything in our facilities in Italy, where the quality control is tight.  So 'Made in Italy' is one of our values. Second is our factory of production. Skilled personnel handle our entire production. That is the guarantee we give that it is a quality product and a skilled workforce is trained in an academy. From canvas construction, skilled workforce, best material, made in Italy, it would make the suit, a perfect suit.

Q: Now back to communications, what is the message that luxury brands should be communicating?

I think that luxury brands must communicate themselves using a language that should be completely comprehensive to the cast and understandable, it means that the brands have to take into consideration what the customer would like to know. Their needs. The behaviour has to be analysed and the messages should cater to the customer needs.

Q: When it comes to communications, luxury brands have a reputation for being cagey, and only speaking on their own terms. This doesn’t lend itself to good conversation. What are your reactions to that?

Thinking about that, “luxury” comes from a Latin word, which means distance, distance in reference to economical distance. It means they’re expensive items. Now the distance is intellectual. A lot more related to knowledge. So I think that luxury brands must be understandable and must explain why it is available and why the customers wish to buy or get it, and why the product is desirable to the customer. I think we should talk directly to the consumer. Not keep the distance. I don’t think that the luxury product should become less luxury if it is more closer to the consumer.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that communications faces today?

There are different ways to reach the consumer nowadays, so I think that you must be updated about the environment, and the field that you are operating in. And the way to deliver your message using the proper media or media tools that you think can achieve the goal, the most profitable way. It means that, for example, we are facing with a lot of videos, people are using videos on their website to communicate the mood of the collection, to communicate the emotion behind and inside the collection. Words are sometimes not enough. You have to take advantage of different tools.

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