EXCLUSIVE: Arezzo & Co. Takes Majority Stake in Buzzy Footwear Brand Paris Texas
PARIS — Arezzo & Co. is stepping up its game, opening a new chapter in its 50-year-long history.
The Brazilian conglomerate grouping brands such as Arezzo, Schutz and Alexandre Birman has acquired a majority stake in hip Italian footwear label Paris Texas, WWD and Footwear News have learned.
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In particular, Arezzo & Co. has invested 25 million euros to take over 65 percent of the brand Annamaria Brivio launched in 2015, which generated sales of around 15 million euros last year.
Marking the group’s first international acquisition, the deal will be officially revealed Friday morning at a joint event during Paris Fashion Week.
Zoom-calling from Tuscany before departing for Paris, Arezzo & Co.’s chief executive officer and footwear designer Alexandre Birman underscored that the operation is just the first move toward a new, ambitious direction the company is taking.
“This moment for us is very important and beyond just one acquisition. It’s the beginning of a new era of Arezzo & Co. and of a transformation that we have been studying and planning for years,” he said. “The real business of luxury shoes is made in Italy. That’s the reality and that will always be the case… So for our company to really become international in the luxury women’s footwear landscape, it’s crucial to have an Italian relevance,” said Birman, who founded his namesake brand in 2008, after already establishing the Schutz label at only 18 in 1995.
A knack for shoemaking runs in his family since his father Anderson, chairman of Arezzo & Co., and uncle Jefferson founded the namesake brand Arezzo in 1972. Five decades later, the company evolved into a multibranded group that includes also Anacapri, Fiever, Alme, My Shoes, Baw Clothing, Carol Bassi and the lifestyle arm AR&Co, which counts brands such as Reserva. In 2019, Arezzo & Co. revealed an agreement to be the exclusive distributor of the Vans brand of footwear, apparel and accessories in Brazil, too.
Listed on the São Paulo Stock Exchange since 2011, in the first nine months of 2022 the company reported sales up 57.4 percent to 3.6 billion Brazilian reals, or roughly $700 million, compared to the same period in 2021.
Birman underscored the unique positioning of the group, pointing to the market share Arezzo & Co. has in Brazil, which he said is around 38 percent for the women’s shoe market of footwear above $100. He also highlighted how the new Italian focus will build on the firm’s international expansion kick-started a decade ago and that has so far resulted in a strong presence, especially in the U.S., a market that accounts for 10 percent and around $100 million out of the total business.
Finding the right partner in Italy was the first step to set in motion Birman’s expansion plan. “My kind of assessment in the brand started in September of 2022. I spoke with eight companies and although the other seven I appreciate and admire, it was not the right timing [for them],” he said.
Conversely, the connection with Brivio and Paris Texas’ cofounder and chief executive officer Massimo Baltimora was natural. After first meeting them at the Four Seasons hotel in Milan during fashion week in September, Birman visited the brand’s showrooms both in the city and Paris. Ten days after, Brivio and Baltimora traveled to Brazil and got to see up-close Arezzo & Co.’s product development center and a few of its factories in the southern part of the country. A meeting in New York a few months later ultimately sealed the deal.
“I really believe a lot in Paris Texas. The brand is plural, it has a very strong positioning,” said Birman, referencing the duality between the super feminine and evening side and the more everyday approach in its offering. “The way they started was very unusual because they were owners of a store and the showroom, and she’s very creative. Annamaria is a talent, she has a very high level of taste,” said Birman.
In particular, Brivio began her career as a fashion buyer for a multibrand store in Milan before teaming with business partner Baltimora to create the showroom Baltimora Studio. Together, in 2012 they launched luxury fashion boutique Norrgatan in Monza, just outside of Milan. They launched Paris Texas, homing in on their knowledge of running both these businesses and after finding a gap in the market for fashion-oriented, good-quality designs at competitive price points.
Their highly photogenic styles include fierce stilettos and crystal embellishments sitting alongside chunky cowboy boots. Knee-high and slouchy boots in metallic, croc and python-effect leathers or in bright colors are still the brand’s signature, even though the offering has expanded to a wide array of designs, such as mules, platforms, wedges and strappy sandals.
After building a strong base in Italy, the brand’s visibility exploded internationally on social media and among influencers and celebrities. Through the years, Paris Texas shoes have been seen on the feet of Emily Ratajkowski, Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, Ashley Graham, Nicola Peltz Beckham, Chiara Ferragni, Gigi Hadid and the whole Kardashian-Jenner clan, to name a few. In 2019, Brivio was also honored with the Emerging Talent Award at the annual FN Achievement Awards.
“When we were looking for a partner, we knew we had to have a ‘value match’ — someone who has similar attitudes to work and life,” said Brivio. “Alex is that person. He is a self-starter and has grown his business to a globally renowned behemoth, and has an incredible amount of knowledge when it comes to running a business, from conception to production and execution.”
“We don’t see Arezzo as an investor with a speculative objective but as a strategic partner who shares our vision and entrepreneurial spirit,” echoed Baltimora. “We want the brand to continue to grow and have longevity, and we feel like we are at the moment where the right partnership can help us accelerate the vision we have for Paris Texas. This isn’t just an opportunity for a financial investment into the company — we get to work with the Arezzo team and use their global expertise and knowledge to bring Paris Texas to the next level and make it a truly global, top-tier brand.”
Both Brivio and Baltimora will retain their roles at the company and sit on a newly created board along with two of Arezzo & Co.’s executives and Birman, who will be executive chairman of the board.
The strategy Birman outlined for the brand is centered on a big distribution push rather than product tweaks, as the executive said he is committed in not “changing anything in the styling, branding and positioning. It’s perfect. We believe there’s a huge space for it.”
The U.S. will be the primary focus of Paris Texas’ new phase, as Arezzo & Co. is planning to capitalize on the know-how built in the last decade, as well as showroom and three distribution centers in the market. These will be instrumental in boosting the direct-to-consumer strategy of the brand, which today is mainly sold through wholesalers.
To this end, Birman revealed plans to open a flagship in New York this year, aiming for launching it between September and November, after setting a dedicated showroom in the city, too.
The freestanding store will be the first of a focused, directly operated rollout that will see the brand opening four other units in strategic locations globally, which will enhance the branding side while doubling as local distribution centers.
This direct network will add to the enhancement of the Paris Texas distribution in multibrand stores and department stores. “There is very little penetration in Asia as well, so we want to help the brand get awareness there,” said Birman, adding that the five-year business plan also includes becoming “more budget-driven and helping with the sourcing.”
“This will be a maturity check for us. We will be able to leverage a top-notch operational and commercial structure that is led by a person who shares our vision and passion,” echoed Baltimora.
Birman teased a focus on Italy was ahead already last week, when he decamped from Paris to present his namesake brand’s main fall 2023 collection in Milan — attended by Brivio too, among many guests. As reported, a few days before the showcase, he also unveiled a capsule collection with the city’s luxury multibrand store Antonia, when he hinted big projects were in the pipeline by stating that “Arezzo, which was born in Brazil and inspired by Italy, after 50 years will have a foot in the country.”
In addition to the Paris Texas deal, Birman revealed the group will acquire a shoe factory in Tuscany — hence the quick detour in the region, where he was accompanied by Brivio and Baltimora. “This won’t support just Paris Texas’ growth, but we’ll also to start the production of Alexandre Birman shoes — made in Italy,” he said.
“With all due respect to my home country, I’m Brazilian and that makes me proud of course, but I would never, ever try to compare it to the Made in Italy. I’m Brazilian with Italian roots,” he continued, quickly switching to Italian in recalling his experience when living in Florence or attending all the editions of Lineapelle since 1993 for inspiration.
“So now I also own an Italian business and that for me is very important as individual and businessman,” Birman added, realizing his journey came full circle. “Imagine taking the founder of Arezzo, my father, to Arezzo [the city] in the moment that we are doing our first international acquisition of a Italian brand: It’s something very meaningful… But we believe in an Italian phrase, which is ‘piano piano, si va lontano’ [‘slowly slowly, you get far,’ in English]. It’s going to be like that: step by step,” concluded Birman.
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