Following LUISAVIAROMA's 11th annual FIRENZE4EVER, we sat down with the Italian retailer's CEO to learn more about their unique business model as well as what the future holds.

A few weeks ago we were invited to Florence to take part in LUISAVIAROMA's latest installment of FIRENZE4EVER. As part of the festivities, we shot our first editorial of the season featuring some of our favorite pieces from the retailer's Fall/Winter 2015 assortment. In addition, we had a chance to talk with LUISAVIAROMA's CEO, Andrea Panconesi, to find out more about their expansive operation, which includes a unique flagship store just steps away from the city's famed cathedral.

Take a look at our interview below and browse their current offerings at LUISAVIAROMA.com.

Tell us about the history of LUISAVIAROMA.

Well, you know, I'm not very interested in talking about the history. I prefer to talk about the future but to make a long story short, the history started with my grandmother, who was a hat designer in Paris. She had a small boutique in Paris and she was displaying hats by the Arc de Triomphe one day and that's where she met my grandfather, who was there betting on horses. So that's how everything started.

My grandfather was dealing with straw so they decided to make straw hats in Paris, but business didn't go very well. They went bankrupt and they moved back to Italy. So they started a small shop next to the straw market here in Florence in the begining of the 20th century and then bought this property at the beginning of the 1930s. So it's a very old family business which has been totally revolutionized in the last 15 years thanks to the internet.

And what about the future?

I think physical integration and virtual reality is going to be the future. That's what we're working on. I'm not interested in opening 300 new physical shops. I have one and I take really good care of it. It's where events like this can happen. It's a meeting point twice a year for media like you. One place is enough, it's not a commercial purpose, it's marketing and communication. My business is online. Thanks to technology, there is a new tool everyday and I'm fascinated by that. I don't need to open different sites. We have one platform and we are perfectly happy with it. The future will be something different, which is not a physical store nor a website, it's something in between.

When did you take over as CEO?

I started working many years ago. Although I'm still very young, I started working in this business 40 years ago. Little by little I developed the business from having a window on the street to having a window in the world. Now we operate in 150 countries around the entire world in eight different languages.

When did you launch the online shop?

We opened very early in 1999. It was something totally different, not like what it is now. The connection was so slow that no connection was available in a private home at that time.

What were the early days of the online shop like?

Everything started from the same operation that I developed over the last 30 years, so the formula of the business is the same. The most valuable thing is the contact we have with our designers, brands and clients. Our clients come from three generations. They used to be young girls and boys that would come and buy in the store. Then they grew up and had families, and then they brought their children. Now there is the third generation who is still faithful and uses our services.

Does LUISAVIAROMA appeal to a certain customer?

Our idea has always been to serve the most difficult clients. They are the most valuable to us. I always thought that if you could please the most difficult clients then everybody else would come easily.

What makes a certain client more difficult than another?

The fact that the client knows everything. That they are passionate about fashion and that they might know more details about the item than we do ourselves, so they are very, very demanding. Those are the clients we like to deal with and we like to please first of all.

How do you win over a client that is so smart?

By delivering the best service possible, by carrying the best choice of the best designers in the world. And returns. We accept returns no matter what. After a month or more without even asking.

Italy is famous for fashion but as you have such a strong online presence does it still matter that LUISAVIAROMA is an Italian company and you have an Italian store? Is that still important to the brand identity?

Yes, it is the most important thing. Our identity is based on the fact that we are Italian. Italy is the best in terms of making fashion; shoes or clothing. Italy has a history of workmanship, a history of architecture, a history of art.

Do you visit the nearby factories?

We always do. First I was doing it eight months a year; between Monday and Friday I was around visiting the showrooms and the factories, both for established designers and young talent. Now I have to manage 200 people working in my office, so I cannot afford to even go to the fashion shows anymore, which breaks my heart. I try to overlook everything and I try to guide them because I have a bit more experience, but we've achieved this level thanks to the cooperation from all sides.

I never loved equality, I was always fascinated by the differences.

You guys carry a lot of famous brands, as well as newer brands. What do you look for in a new brand?

Character, individuality. That's what we look for. I never loved equality, I was always fascinated by the differences. No two people are the same; they do not need the same clothes. Everybody has to adapt fashion to their style. Style is far more important, it's the thing that makes you who you are.

Do you notice different shopping habits for the various markets around the world?

A few differences. Fashion is the most contemporary form of art in my opinion. It represents the period you live in and it changes twice a year, 100%. It's like music, whether you're Chinese, American or European, you love music, you love the same sound, music doesn't have barriers. It doesn't have a nationality, it's a worldwide sound. It's fashion. It's a matter of design, of style and the artistic approach.

Your Florence location has a very strong character and style to it. How do you bring that to the website for the clients that can't come into the store and see it in person?

Well, that is my daily work. I'm totally dedicated to the web because that's a window to the world. We cannot afford to make one mistake on the web. If we make a mistake in the store, then maybe 200 or 300 people notice it, but if you make the same mistake online, 200,000 people notice it.

So the stakes are higher?

Yes, we have to be very, very careful. We manage the best designers in the world and we have big responsibilities and we feel it. I'm on top of it and I overlook every single aspect of the backend and the frontend of our website. Twice a year we try to imagine a new idea, something different, something special, this time it was My Little Pony. Our goal is to surprise you guys: the media. If we can surprise you, then we will surprise all our followers and if we don't surprise you, then we fail.

Were your surprised when you came in?

I was.

It's the same thing basically. Once you get onto our website, you have to feel like you're entering a different world. It's a world of dreams, a world of fantasy. You have the rainbow; what's behind the rainbow? What's on top of the rainbow? Everybody has their own idea.

What's on the other side of the rainbow for you?

I think it's friendship, love, family, good will for everybody. The opposite of envy; collaboration and all the good qualities we should promote. To help the people who need it most. That's my personal hope. Whenever I have a chance to help people that need it, then I sleep well at night.

Is that the idea behind the My Little Pony partnership?

Yes, this time it's for Save the Children - to help the children that suffered from the earthquake in Nepal.

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