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Ciao Ciro Citterio
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You'd be hard pushed to find a man who has never had an experience with 'Ciro Citterio', whether it be a suit purchase for a job interview or a casual wear find, the legacy it left behind when it closed its doors in 2003 is inescapable. At its peak the Edgbaston-based brand was responsible for 20% of all UK suit sales and was home to brands such as 'Horne Brothers' and 'Sweater Shop'. DESSYTRENDS speaks to Aly Valliani, Director and Buyer of 'Chemistry Menswear' who is putting the 'Ciro Citterio' name back where it belongs.

Founded in 1973, by the Midlands based Thakrar family, 'Ciro Citterio' initially went into administration in March 2001 after a dispute amongst shareholders. "Trident Fashions had big plans for the chain, injecting pounds 12m to help revamp its slightly downmarket image and reposition the group in an increasingly competitive market. But the plan failed and the retailer racked up losses of pounds 9.7m last year on sales of pounds 65m." Susie Mesure reported in The Independent in Sept 2003.

After four years, the brand is undergoing major redevelopments and is on its way to once again, becoming a strong competitor in the menswear retail market. Aly Valliani Director of ‘Fuel Menswear Ltd’ purchased its name in January 2007 and as Director and Buyer has planned an imminent re-vamp, which aims to position a 'Ciro Citterio' store back on every High Street.

Fuel Menswear Ltd’ is not new to the High Street, owners of successful menswear chain store, 'Chemistry Menswear', 'Chemistry' initially appeared on the High Street in 2005 and provided a new concept in men's fashion, bringing the best high-end menswear brands - at humble High Street prices. "We see shopping as a whole experience, so the second you step into 'Chemistry' the atmosphere will be relaxed. You'll find a discerning mix of high quality tailoring as well as the latest casual and street wear," the website enthuses.

Aly explains, "To date, both brands are owned and operated by ‘Fuel Menswear Ltd.’ 'Ciro Citterio' has been on the High Street for nearly 35 years, while the extremely successful ‘Chemistry’ brand was recently launched to meet a market need for premium brands at factory prices. ‘Ciro Citterio’ has now completed a brand review and its inspiration comes through a loyal following and the demand for great quality products at incredible value.” The new look will deliver an upbeat contempory feel to the stores - while at the same time re-enforcing style, quality and classic values the brand still upholds. The product mix will consist of a combination of 60% casual wear to 40% formal wear under the ‘Ciro Citterio’ label and will be supported by a range of established designer names and exciting new niche market brands from Europe adding a cutting edge. The two companies will trade separately.

Brands, which fall under the formal category consist of established names such as Thierry Mugler, Carven, Carlo Balducci and Valliani to emerging casual wear such as Cotton Field, Timezone, French Connection, Diesel and Geox. 

With the difficulties the brand has faced in its past, what is the key to a recent revamp success? “'Ciro' will achieve slowly and steadily. It is our intention that in time to come all 'Chemistry' stores will convert into 'Ciro Citterio' stores, the reason for this is because the difference lies in the acceptability and recognition of the name. Furthermore franchise opportunities are currently available worldwide and this will propel the brand to unseen heights. The company was known primarily for suits and every one in four suits in the UK was a 'Ciro Citterio' suit at the company's zenith!" Perhaps unsurprisingly, the re-branding is also to appeal to Aly himself, "I didn't shop there often as the stock was geared towards the older market – that was the perception at the time. Now it is completely different and caters to both generations, we have changed the product mix with more continental brands alongside mainstream brands."

Aly recognises that male shoppers have changed since 'Ciro Citterio' last opened their doors. They are more open to new fashion trends, grooming and no longer have to go shopping with their girlfriends.  "The company is more directional and is trading up all its customers and caters to a variety of clientele" he concludes.

The first Ciro Citterio store has just opened in Brighton and plenty more are to follow in the next two years, with plans to franchise stores in the Middle East, Pakistan and India. Aly asserts, "by February 2008 we should have 15 - 18 stores trading in the UK under the 'Ciro Citterio' and 'Chemistry' fascia".

The 'Ciro Citterio' name will surely give other menswear stores a run for their money; inviting old customers back and this time, they will be bringing their sons along with them.


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