finish. the thread count is but one factor. this is hi-tech manufacture blended with sophisticated design. the company is steeped in tradition, but Mr Martin wonders if there needs to be an evolution beyond the seasons of traditional cloth manufacture, which run from new year till the summer break, then the autumn season (in the northern hemisphere) until Christmas. Bed linen differs from clothing in not having seasons; it is a 365-days-a-year product. ‘Distributors visit us twice a year in order to do their buying and the cycle follows that programme. i’m not convinced it’s the best way to organize. i want us to have more time to innovate.’ his vision is for Frette to have a business model more akin to an entrepreneurial design company that is continually innovating, every day of the year. there has already been much innovation in the business model. Frette has learned to work more closely with business partners such as luxury hotels and cruise companies. the bed linen, after all, form part of the visual and tactile aesthetic of a suite. So as well as off-the-shelf products, Frette can produce bespoke items, working with the interior designer of the business partner. Styles need to reflect changing tastes of a global audience. the economic world has altered out of all recognition compared with the 1860s. Wealth is now distributed widely, with significant luxury markets in india, South America and China, as well as the older industrialized regions of western europe and north America. But while people are far more mobile, their tastes are still influenced by the culture in which they were raised. ‘if [customers are] from the Middle east, or the Americas or Chinese, they are absolutely different [in their tastes]. that’s the biggest challenge for the luxury brand.’ it is the same with corporate partners: ‘the Asian architect, or South American architect; their expectations, the way they see the world, their language, are sometimes not the same. We need to have the ability to understand that. We don’t
have one designer for each market, that would be too complicated, but we need to have international resonance.’ And will there be more stores? the answer is yes, but selectively. this is a premium brand. there will be one in Shanghai, for example. ‘not too many stores; more good stores. i prefer fewer stores, but better,’ he says, simply. One route to identifying influential customers is the world of the luxury yacht. it is not a huge market in itself, ‘but it is an excellent way to develop greater visibility at the top of the market,’ he says. So Frette exhibited at the Monaco Yacht Show, and is collaborating with leading firms such as San Lorenzo. the demands for continual reinvention influence his open and empowering leadership style. ‘i want open minds, people who will say “Let’s not just repeat what we had in the past”. in order to do this, you need to give your team space and support. i recruit for entrepreneurial skills.’ As a lover of fine art, he and his wife were keen to attend the expressionists exhibition in the Royal Academy on Piccadilly during their stay in London for the launch of the store in Mayfair. it’s
tourism, if you like, but such appreciation naturally informs the head of a company based on style. Design, look, feel, and the entrepreneurial instinct for reinvention. it’s called keeping in touch.