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Mexx goes back to basics after a turbulent 10 years

By Caitlyn Terra


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Amsterdam - Mexx is set to embark on a new chapter. The brand officially relaunched under new ownership last week, presenting its new look and a new strategy. Leo Cantagalli, former Mexx man, has returned and stands at the helm of the company as its new Chief Executive Officer. FashionUnited spoke with him to learn more on his vision for the future of the brand and where he believes things went stray over the last ten years.

Cantagalli has been a Mexx shareholder since 1986, when the brand first established its presence within the Benelux. In 1986 the brands formerly known as Moustaches and Emanuelle merged to created the fashion brand known as Mexx. "I have there since the very beginning," explains the new CEO. "We [Cantagalli and the other senior management men from that time] have always followed the brand, as Mexx-men at heart and soul." The brand was previously known for its business-casual look, reaching 1.4 billion euros in revenues at its peak. Over the past ten years several owners have stood at the helm of the fashion label. "First came a NIkeman, then a man from Esprit, followed by a CEO from America and lastly the Turkish Eroglu," says Cantagalli during the telephone interview. Cantagalli himself left the brand in 2009, and Mexx went from offering sporty attire, to high-end fashion, luxury and in the end was trying to compete with fast-fashion retailer Zara. "We never had those low prices in the past," says the new CEO, adding: "If you do not understand the brand's DNA, then you will automatically go in the wrong direction. It had nothing to do with the brand, but with the different owners of the past ten years."

"The consumer understands Mexx, knows Mexx"

Leo Cantagalli, CEO, Mexx

Mexx: Things went wrong with the owners of the past ten years

In 2016, Cantagalli received a phone call that Eroglu Holding wanted to get rid of Mexx. "At the time, I thought: 'The brand cannot go down or disappear from the map." Cantagalli was already interested and had even gathered a group of investors to take over the trademark rights of Mexx at that time. As a result, the CEO also came into contact with RNF Holding in Drunen, the current owner of Mexx, due to the trademark rights for the brand's footwear range. Eventually one of the investors from the group Cantagalli put together withdrew their support and he had to inform RNF that he would not be taking over Mexx. Cantagalli had already spoken to RNF about the relaunch of Mexx which would include, among other things, a new shoe line, under its new concept. "But I could not finance it on my own. Then I said that we could also do it together, that I could be a part of the management team at Mexx." In the end, it resulted in the two parties working together, who combined the capital from RNF with the restructuring strategy from Cantagalli, placing him at the head of the company.

Everything had to be reinvent from ground zero since the takeover. Mexx's existing stores in Greece and the CIS countries were the only aspects that survived. Mexx had already closed its doors in all of its other markets it was best known back in its glory days. "Things went wrong with the [previous] owners. It is because they did not know the brand, they did not know the DNA of the brand and took a new distribution approach which showed that they did not know the core markets of Mexx," added Cantagalli. Nevertheless, confidence in the brand still remains, according to the new CEO. He researched the name recognition of the brand and it turned out to be very high in the markets where the brand has been present for more than 25 years, which was a surprise for Cantagalli. "Consumers understand Mexx, the consumer knows Mexx." Trust and confidence in the brand was still evident, although the recent turbulent years have begun to take a toll. "We are going to reposition the brand again. And put it where it belongs."

"It is shocking to say, but we are going to try and get the company to reach 200 million euros in turnover over the next five years"

Leo Cantagalli, CEO, Mexx

CEO Mexx: "They did not know the brand, the DNA of the brand and its core markets"

Together with the former brand director Nur Basron, veteran financial topman Jacques Mitterand and RNF Holding, Mexx is starting a new chapter - which focuses heavily on e-commerce. "It is the highest priority. Almost all brands see their online sales accounting for 20 to 30 percent of their total sales." Mexx is set to stage its debut physical retail return this fall, which will quickly be followed with the opening of flagship stores in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Munich. The stores will also feature key e-commerce components, such as tablets in the store windows, where consumers can place orders 24 hours a day. "That is something that has not yet been done." The stores themselves, which will span up to 200 square meters, will feature a new interior design.

Mexx aims to achieve a turnover of 20 million euros during its first year, according to Cantagalli. "It is shocking to say, but we are trying to get the company to reach 200 million euros turnover in the next five years. We are now trying to lay the foundation, and if the foundation is right, then we can start building the house."

Photos: Courtesy of Mexx

Translated and edited by Vivian Hendriksz