Ferrari has proved that Italian flair and a nose for business can lead to great things. Its worldwide chain of stores and huge online sales have seen the company take giant strides forward in terms of profit and marketing potential.
Peering over its neighbor's shoulder is Pirelli, another ubiquitous Italian brand with more to offer than just the rubber under your car. Since 1964 it's produced a very successful calendar that's risen from workshop wall titillation to art statement and social mouthpiece.
With its return to Formula One racing, Pirelli has realized it's sitting on a goldmine. Founded in 1872 by Giovanni Battista Pirelli, the business diversified as soon as it was born. Making its first bicycle tire in 1890, Pirelli was simultaneously producing telegraph cable and later phone lines. At times the company has also produced children's toys and is now in the business of bringing Italian style to mainstreet and our web shopping expeditions.
Back in September 2011 the company opened a store in Milan's legendary fashion district, the company's hometown. It would showcase a collection called PZero and it isn't your regular automotive merchandise. In fact, you often need to search for the Pirelli logo because this isn't about brash tee-shirts. The collection is for men, women and children and ranges from shoes to raincoats, jackets to scarves, shirts to jeans, sweaters to handbags. And while it was designed to capitalize on Pirelli's involvement in both F1 and motorcycling, it bears little resemblance to existing forms of fashion in those genres.
The PZero brand was first launched in 2002 with a boat shoe called PZeroAcqua and a jacket called PZeroAria. Today there's an actual boat in the store: one of a range of rubber dinghies available to customers. There's also a Burton/Pirelli snowboard that draws attention to the company's winter gear, plus a line of bicycles to highlight the cycling garb.
Another exciting addition was the vehicles. These included a stunning Lancia Stratos above the clothing racks, as well as Gilera and Deus motorcycles to highlight a range of biker gear.
The store has an interactive quality, from the projected waterfall in the stairwell that saw a dog attempting to quench its thirst, to the rubber boot wall display and robotized boot stacker. There was also a wonderful display in the shoe area that highlighted the custom service, where Pirelli's rubber soles are perfectly sized to your feet and dressed in soft leather or synthetics. It's all a tactile experience that has you wandering the store for hours.
During our exploration we came across an interactive table that allowed you to select pages from the Pirelli calendar and expand them to life-size proportions, or document Pirelli's history and product diversity if preferred. There were examples of a rubber Pirelli cat that was a popular toy in its distant past, and it all mingles with references to the high-technology world of Formula One and motorcycling.
With plans to expand the flagship store to other locations around the world, and new lines being introduced, we urge you to experience the store and the PZero brand at pirellipzero.com