Inspired by techwear’s clean designs, attention to volume, focus on materials, Andrea Bonsignore chooses to make clothes for the protagonists, rather than the store itself
Degli Uberti store in Via di Grotta Perfetta, Rome
A store that specialises in high end streetwear and is the brainchild of Andrea Bonsignore. When asked about how he became involved in the fashion industry, Bonsignore affirms that «I was born in the business, I didn’t start from scratch. It was a family path. My first experience was in my family’s business, also called Degli Uberti. I have been fortunate to be able to grow up looking at fashion shows and fashion collections. My mother always tells me how she was looking at Fendi collections, whilst I was in the cradle».
«My parents’ work in the fashion industry heavily influenced me in my early life. I helped out with their business, whether it be in the warehouse or with crowd control at Christmas or during sales. From these small tasks, I then decided to set up my own business and pursue my own path. I initially contributed to Degli Uberti, which started as a family project. Then, I took charge of the whole business».
In 2015 Bonsignore started planning his solo venture. Initially, Degli Uberti started as a pop up store then branched out into online sales. «Degli Uberti is two years old, so it is a relatively young project. It has been a path. A progression towards commercial choices, not only based in our area, but aiming at a much wider public. Not just Rome, but Europe and the world, which is what we are doing after five years of e-commerce. I have worked towards a store that mirrors what I find interesting. What I like both for the stock and the display, focusing all my strengths and all my time, working almost 24/7 until I was able to open Degli Uberti. When we decided to move, we were very aware that we already had a solid client base because the name Degli Uberti, my family’s business, was already forty years old».
Degli Uberti’s new location
The historic Degli Uberti store was located near the EUR neighbourhood. Although the current one is still near EUR, it is much closer to the city centre. Bonsignore attributes the reasoning behind the move as a way of attracting a younger clientele, as well as ensuring the retainment of the old one.
He states that they «took some of the old clients with us. But we were also very aware that we were going to lose some of them. So we started branding and trying to keep in touch with our client base, both before and after the move. With our new location, we also moved the focus towards streetwear. In the past we used to sell Dolce&Gabbana, Cavalli, Richmond, Custo Barcelona, Ferré. High end brands, with high price tags. Then, we moved towards a more casual style. Dondup, Mauro Grifoni, choosing boutique wear with a lower price tag, still stocking high quality tailoring, like Lardini, Tagliatore, Ballantyne».
«We had all sorts of clients. The teenager buying a Richmond sneaker, and the fifty-year-old man buying a Lardini jacket, matching it with jeans by Dondup. We have always had this kind of transversality. We also stocked both menswear and womenswear and we mixed the two in our shop window, so couples would come and shop together. At the time there weren’t many stores in Rome who were researching and stocking these brands».
As for Degli Uberti’s new location, Bonsignore explains that he chose a «a linear, modern, essential style, so that the protagonists could be the clothes, rather than the store itself. The starting point was researching the kind of style I had developed an interest for, the type of store. I looked at stores like Departamento in Los Angeles, Antonioli in Milan. Then I chose two architects, a young university graduate and a woman who had much more experience in this field. We put together my feedback and thoughts, until we reached what I now describe as a container, a grey cradle.
«The focus is on the items. It is a large space, filled with cages on various levels. The display is lit up from the back. In this way, the clothes have shadows. We chose to work on shadows more than on lights because this gives strength to the texture of the clothes. Our store is divided in half and in the centre there is a cage that wraps itself around a column. There are tree branches which are more than four metres high and they give a sense of depth to the whole environment. The light emanates from above the branches».
Lampoon review: Degli Uberti interiors
Skilled technician crafted the interiors of the new Degli Uberti store. According to Bonsignore «everything has been created and made solely for the purpose of furnishing the store. We have not bought anything ready made. Our store has been planned to last for eternity, allowing for a restyling from time to time. But nothing substantial, since space has already been optimised. As soon as you enter the store, you should immediately feel this sense of air, light. Your attention easily directs itself to the themes of the shop, the various brands».
«The store has been designed to be easily reshaped. So we constantly change the displays and we move around the stock. We wanted to be able to constantly freshen it up. A client entering the store can find a shop window with a mannequin, or a box on the floor or, the next time they visit, a swing with something else hanging from the ceiling. Everything is changeable and constantly changing. The protagonist is not the store, even though it is a beautiful store, but the item of clothing. This is our aim».
When asked about what renders Degli Uberti unique, Bonsignore explains that when «listening to people who gravitate in our world, anyone who comes in contact with us, feels that we are not just in Rome. We are delocalised, not linked to a place. Clients always tell us that Degli Uberti is very contemporary, very international. The difference between us and other stores is that we have chosen to remain between black and white and decided to make grey our essence. Grey is a neutral colour. It can be paired with everything, and we think of it as an eternal colour. The various interchangeable components of the store, the way it develops vertically, using shadows instead of lights, define and constitute our identity».
Bonsignore’s brands selection process
Regarding the selection process Bonsignore explains that «he is the main buyer at Degli Uberti. My choices are informed by my sensitivity, my impressions, my image of fashion in a specific moment. Trends coming from Asia have always inspired me. I have also moved from fashion to casual and then to streetwear. I work with brands like Adidas, Nike, Stussy, Carhartt, Stussy. Keeping my focus and researching the contemporary, looking for feelings that I think are not yet fully known and communicated by brands. Following my aesthetic, my appreciation of volume, forms and colours. After looking at Northern European design, I have kept my taste for clean designs and attention to volume, focusing on materials and looking for brands that offer more technical products, loose fit. We focus on techwear, a hybrid between technical wear and clean, loose fit Japanese design».
Bonsingore further states that «we start thinking about our future collections three months before we start buying. I start analyzing the market for the next season and I pick only what manages to convince me and stands the test of time, provided it matches Degli Uberti’s aesthetic. So, at the moment, I am looking at Japan and Asia with brands like Wonder, Nanamica, Snow Peak, following my interest in techwear, introducing brands like CP Company that have completely changed in the last two or three seasons».
Degli Uberti’s partnerships
Prior to the pandemic, Degli Uberti started a collaboration with an artisanal coffee roasting company and they would also arrange events in the store in in collaboration with The North Face, Vans, private sales, trying to make «our clients feel special and valued. We are very customer based, we look after our clients and build brand loyalty. We have an interest for our project and the message that we are trying to deliver».
Degli Uberti also stocks a sizable magazine collection, as Bonsignore explains that one of «my assistants chooses the magazines that we sell in the store. He is studying at Marangoni right now, so is in touch with the current fashion trends and he keeps himself constantly up to date. I have outsourced this task to someone that I trust, who is very competent and with whom I collaborate daily».
Lockdown impact on retail industry
Last year has brought momentous changes in the business. Bonsignore affirms that during the first lockdown, he was facing the possibility of losing everything as «we didn’t know if and when we could open again. These huge question marks were a shock to the system. After a couple of days, survival mode kicked in. I needed to keep going to preserve everything that I had worked so hard to create. So we reorganised the business».
«We realised that we had until then underestimated our online store. Then, we focused on a market that we had not been mentally prepared to engage with beforehand. As we didn’t have the physical store to worry about, we could focus all our energies on e-commerce. And I must say that the possibilities of online retail have represented a pleasant surprise for me. We have seen the real value of our business and of all the people that are part of this project».
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Degli Uberti has focused on producing dynamic and up to date content to engage «our clients, to make them come back again and again to our web pages with editorials, photographs, feeds, still lives, videos. We have opened a photography studio which we use to create content for our website, where my team works on marketing, graphic and general business organisation. All the work that used to take place in the store now takes place in our photography studio».
As for future projects, Buonsignore explains that «there are a couple of fields that we are testing. We are thinking about online sales via live-streaming. In Asia it is already a reality, it is starting in the US and we are exploring it at the moment. We are also focusing on improving our customer experience. We want to work on the customer’s path when they access our website. Further, we also want to create a better navigation system».
Via di Grotta Perfetta, 137, 00142 Roma RM
Since 1976 Degli Uberti Store has been anticipating the coming trends with a selection of brands from all over the world.