SACCO is “designed in London, made in Napoli and based in Singapore”. Tell us more about that and how the brand was born.
I’ve been in fashion since day one. I did my masters in Paris with LVMH and worked for Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Then I went to London’s Savile Row and worked for Ozwald Boateng, who made Savile Row sexy from something very stiff and British. I was inspired by the colours and by the way they understand the technique and engineering behind jackets. I worked with a technical designer there, and she’s a genius in terms of creating the technical information for the factories. Then we managed to find the perfect factory in Naples. It takes a certain amount of craftsmanship and in Naples, they are used to doing unlined jackets. The factory I’m working with is a third generation tailoring company and it took more than a year to get the final sample done to go to bulk production.
That’s what makes it designed in London, by the lady from Savile Row; sent for production in Naples, because it’s the only factory that can really construct it this way; and then shipped to Singapore, our headquarters because I live there. We launched last year just in Singapore and then this season we just launched in Japan, which is now our main market.
A lightweight, unlined blazer seems obvious for use in tropical climates, but in reality, it isn’t that easy to find here. Why is that and how does SACCO fit in to fill the gap in the market?
The new generation appreciates the culture of tailoring because consumers are well informed now. I think tailoring was big with tourists, but now there is a new generation picking it up and it’s actually for the local population. Here in the tropics, it’s important to have unlined jackets but in terms of ready-towear, it is so difficult to make. It’s hard to find because I think the main reason is that other businesses are focused on making a profit. They have jackets that are so cheap but there’s polyester inside, which doesn’t breathe. If you look at it from the purely business side, it becomes difficult. To be honest, wanting to make jackets for the tropics, it’s kind of like selling bikinis in Iceland. But my passion just drove me to find a solution to ‘beat the heat’, so I decided just to go for it.
How did your connection to men’s fashion and blazers begin, and how does your experience working for great luxury fashion houses shape the way run SACCO?
I’ve been doing menswear 20 years now. In Europe, I worked for Hugo Boss, and I got the name because sakko means blazer in German so we we’re always talking about sakko. I always loved the name and for me, the blazer is the most obvious fashion statement. On Savile Row, I got a lot of respect for the engineering and the craftsmanship behind it and it’s the most difficult product to make. With shoes, you have two dimensions, for shirts it’s two or three but with jackets, it’s like building a house. Even if you have the perfect jacket, because it’s ready-to-wear, you have to think about all the different heights and shapes, and you have to take an average of everything.. Working with the big brands also helped me to understand luxury, no compromise with the factories, how to source materials and the sampling process.
Tell us more about the Vitale Barberis Canonico (VBC) fabric that you use.
VBC has the best quality in terms of hopsack, which is a basket weave that’s open, breathable and even though it’s wool, it feels like linen. For me, the look still has to be quite clean because there’s casual and there’s too casual. I went with hopsack mainly for its breathability and its structure.
You can go to other mills but it’s all navy, grey, black, while VBC has 50 colours. I wanted to keep the concept simple: one jacket, one fabric, but over 20 colours. I didn’t want to start with different models, with different fabrics and different price points. I just wanted to keep it simple because it’s all about less is more. VBC has been a great partner, supportive in terms of new ideas and colours that we also want to work with. But it’s not made in stone that we have to work exclusively with them.
SACCO sells exclusively online, through what you call ePOP or e-commerce Point of Purchase. What does ePOP mean for your business operations?
E-commerce is very important to bring prices down, but the thing with a product like SACCO is once you touch it and feel it, it’s a completely different experience. It’s difficult to communicate that through pictures. So retail presence is very important for people to go feel before ordering online. The idea with ePOP is for example if I find a retailer in KL who wants to carry SACCO but doesn’t want to take the risk of buying 200 pieces of stock, we’ll give them one jacket per colour in different sizes so people can see the colours, feel it, try the size and then the shop orders for them and we deliver jackets that are already sold. So ePOP is kind of a retail pop-up shop that only has anything between 12 to 20 jackets. It’s low risk for the retailer because basically if they don’t sell, they don’t spend, and I thought it was good way to combine offline and online retailing.
What can we anticipate from SACCO as you move forward in your history?
Right now we need to cater to the demand of our current product. It’s all about economy of scale to get the production correct, lower costs and also increase distribution. It’s not just an issue of getting all the raw materials but also that our factory can actually handle it. The nice thing with e-commerce is that there are no customers pushing you for deliveries in bulk. But now that we’re going into the retail arena, we’ll have customers that demand delivery windows, it’s a whole other logistics game. So as a first step, we’re working on perfection and all of the logistics on the operational side. If I have a little bit of time after that, then I’m going to launch shirts, t-shirts, trousers, shoes and belts and even pocket squares, just to have the complete look. The future is still about the jacket but we’re going to add more to complete the look. Then we’re looking at women’s collection.
Finally, what advice can you give us on choosing the perfect blazer?
Firstly a blazer is a blazer, not a suit. Lesson number one is never wear a suit jacket as a blazer. So if you have a grey shiny suit with shoulder pads, and very stiff-looking and you decide to do a casual look with jeans and the suit jacket, it’s a total no-go. The suit is a suit and don’t mix that with casual stuff. When sleeve length is a problem, I always recommend altering at the shoulder; simply because a good quality jacket has working buttons and if you shorten the sleeve then the buttons would be too close to the edge. Then, look at the cuff, to see if the buttons open or if they’re fake. Just try to open one button and feel the material of the cuff because brands don’t really put much effort there, and that’s where you see the moment of truth. Then, if they do open, always have the first button open as a symbol, as a dedication to the jacket. I think those are the main first impression things that you can consider other than fabric, colour, shape, and cut.