[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t’s a late Monday morning at the recently overhauled Paul & Shark boutique at Marina Bay Sands, and we have just met the company’s president and CEO, Andrea Dini. The 51-year-old Italian seems rather pleased with the new store, and it’s not just because of the continuous flow of customers during the time we are there.
One of some 50 stores in Greater China and Singapore that Paul & Shark now directly operates, following the end of a 15-year partnership with fashion distribution group ImagineX, the Marina Bay Sands boutique is the first store to feature the Italian premium brand’s new interior concept. “I wanted a completely different concept from the yachting-related atmosphere that had been linked to the brand,” says Dini of the minimalist, metal-dominated new look. “Formerly, this store was full of wood, beautiful but heavy and overwhelming – sometimes, you saw more of the furniture than the product. And we want to sell product, not furniture.”
Under the leadership of this third-generation chief, the product, too, has changed. The 41-year-old family brand formerly specialised in performance sailing apparel, and, even today, supplies weatherproof sweaters to the Italian navy. Aside from leading the brand’s major expansion into more than 70 countries after taking the helm in 2000, Dini has also shifted the brand’s focus away from specialised gear, choosing instead to focus on the lucrative athleisure market. A term that describes clothing combining elements of athletic and leisure wear, athleisure has been a transformative force in fashion in the past decade, accounting for the rise of styles such as tailored trackpants and leather sneakers.
Even though Paul & Shark now offers a wide range of clothing and accessories for men and women, the brand’s roots remain evident: Aside from elevated basics such as suede sneakers, crisp chinos and patterned knits, its menswear collection includes performance pieces such as jackets made from its Typhoon 2000 fabric. The patented process uses an ultra-soft membrane to protect against wind and water, even in gales. Next year, reveals Dini, the brand will unveil a new weatherproof, ultra-thin, three-layer fabric.
Appealing to a younger audience is just one reason for the brand’s evolution. With a smile, Dini says: “We also love and want to retain our existing customer, who is typically between 35 and 50 years old. This customer is dramatically changing the way he wants to dress. He is becoming more athletic – or, if not, he wants to pretend to be athletic and likes dressing that way.”