Around 20 years ago, a Czech firm with an Italian-sounding name introduced its luxury clothing to the post-Socialist market. Today Pietro Filipi boasts more than 70 stores in eight countries and, despite the subsequent flood of competition from international brands, has become a high-street standout, collaborating with the country’s top fashion talent – and the occasional celebrity – to ensure that its urban apparel and accessories for men and women continue to attract the spoilt-for-choice consumer of today.
Gap in the market
But don’t call it Czech fashion, say the company’s founders. When Petr Hendrych and his former partners Petr Fliegl and Alena Loudinová launched Pietro Filipi (now majority owned by Genesis Capital) in 1993, they never intended to create an isolated Czech fashion trademark. ‘We knew that people dress according to worldwide fashion trends and that it is almost impossible to promote Czech fashion,’ Loudinová told the Prague Tribune in 2003. The concept behind Pietro Filipi was rather to fill a gap for luxurious clothes that looked like they came from the West; the name simply added to the illusion.
Pietro Filipi opened its first retail boutiques in Prague in 1998. Expansion was rapid, says marketing manager Tereza Müllerová: ‘During those early years we wanted to fulfil the ambitions of the brand, which had really begun to show its potential. Everything started changing and all these new shopping centres were entering the picture. Five years later Pietro Filipi just took off.’ Müllerová adds that the growing Czech market proved both an advantage and a challenge to the company. ‘Obviously with the influx of foreign chains, we faced and are still facing competition in the casual segment,’ she says.
With its precisely tailored clothes inspired by Italian fashion, culture and design, Müllerová considers Massimo Dutti and Hugo Boss among Pietro Filipi’s primary competitors, but notes that Pietro Filipi has carved out a place for itself in the area of women’s attire, stocking chic and versatile blazers, blouses and skirts that cater to a sophisticated alpha female who relies on tailoring to take her from day to night. With its newly launched Weekend collection, showcasing minimalist pieces by high-profile Czech designer Hana Zárubová, Pietro Filipi takes its place alongside H&M and Zara in the instant-fashion retail race.
Lead menswear designer Vladimír Staněk, however, makes it clear that Pietro Filipi is not in the business of imitation. ‘There are real people behind our designs, we don’t copy the market, our work is authentic with signature design features and carefully chosen materials,’ he says. ‘Of course, we look to the trends, but our designers interpret them with a respect to the tradition of the brand’s past and the future.’
New style terrain
While preserving the label’s mission of providing classic looks to a loyal customer base (‘Our clients value the timeless appearance of our products,’ says Staněk), the company’s launching strategies have evolved, Müllerová says, with Pietro Filipi continuously adding new product lines. Last year it debuted a smart line of Italian pumps, heels and boots and retro-look oversized bucket bags in summery colours; the lacy cocktails dresses and taffeta gowns from its new Cerimonia formalwear collection are available only at the Národní 31 flagship store (though it’s possible to order and have these dresses delivered to any branch).
Limited-edition collections serve an equally important role in the company’s recent efforts to stay current. These include prolific Paris-based Czech designer Jakub Polanka’s menswear line of ultra-slim trousers, fitted cable-knit sweaters and dapper waistcoats, all in differing shades of grey, as well as award-winning film actress Aňa Geislerová’s Aňa for PF, a glamorous selection of belted jackets, leather trousers and gowns befitting the red carpet. Both collaborations met with unquestionable success and will set the pace for upcoming seasons, says Müllerová.
Czech it out
For a company that had no intentions of promoting Czech fashion, Pietro Filipi has certainly been instrumental in creating a Czech brand that offers, if not a distinctly Czech style, an eastern fashion sensibility – by way of Italy – in a sea of western labels. ‘The eastern mode of dressing is very similar, so it was the first option for expansion,’ says Müllerová of the company’s franchises, which stretch as far east as Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Wherever you shop and whether you are buying a simple cotton shirt or a limited edition cocktail gown, however, the brand’s appeal remains the same, according to Staněk: ‘A focus on details, materials and sartorial tradition.’