John Rowe was just 12 years old when he first pitched the idea of establishing his own fashion label to an investor; now, still only 22, he has done it. His label Givano Roceni produces a range of Italian-made leather goods for men and Rowe’s next ambition is to open a store in London. He talks to The Industry about his determination to set up his brand, his inspirations and aspirations, and how he landed on that brand name.
You’re only 22 and we understand you have been designing since you were 12 years old. Tell us about your early designs and what inspired you to start designing?
When I was 12 I used to design clothing. I remember creating many different types of clothing , from t-shirts to jackets, jeans and shoes. I would then create a unique logo and add it to the clothing. At that age I remember presenting my collection to a possible investor but he didn’t take me seriously possibly because of my age. I’ve always wanted to have my own brand and I got into designing because I wanted to wear my label which reflected a part of my imagination. I create designs with a purpose and that is to deliver quality and craftsmanship to my clients in the best way possible.
Did you go on to study design formally or are you completely self-taught?
I’m a self taught designer. I watched many videos online of craftsmen creating leather goods, from belts to bags and shoes which gave me inspiration as well as knowledge about production techniques.
What was it that attracted you to work with Italian leather and tell us the thinking behind the brand name?
I believe Italian artisans take pride in their craft which attracted me to work with them as I personally have an obsession for the quality of a product and how much effort and pride is put into the development of the article. As I was using Italian artisans I believed it was only right to incorporate an Italian feel into the brand name. Givano Roceni was born from my own name – Giovanni is John in Italian which gave me the idea of ‘Giv’ and Milano was where my dreams started to become a reality which gave me the ‘ano’. Roceni – is apart of my surname which gave me the ‘Ro’ – and the final part ‘ceni’ was then incorporated to give an Italian feel. So all in all the name has a significant meaning to myself.
We understand you started the label while holding down a day job in the insurance industry; that must have been quite a challenge, how did you manage
Realising your dream and also working to invest into your dream is a very difficult task as it affects everything, including personal relationships. Givano Roceni required many sacrifices and many long hours of work, sleepless nights and early mornings. Determination and self drive are big requirements. I’m highly motivated to exercise regularly and I find that the solid effort, hard work and determination I put into exercising is naturally transferred into my business life as well. I guess I use that as a way of releasing stress and tension which helps me to keep going.
What stage are you at now with the label, how big is the collection and where is it sold?
The label is now growing with plans to open our first store in London. The aim with the brand is to control distribution which will enable us to give the client the best experience of the brand and what we are about. Currently clients can visit our site givanoroceni.com to register their interest with a particular product.
What is your vision for Givano Roceni, where would you like to see it sold and who is your target market?
The vision for the brand is to open our own distribution stores in London which we can deliver the true experience to the client and build a connection with our customers. This is a big thing for me, getting to know our clients and delivering an exceptional experience in our stores that they will remember with the purchase they walk out the door with. I am currently working on a new collection for women which will be available this year. I am big dreamer which keeps me motivated so naturally I have many ideas for the brand which will all unfold in due time.
In terms of setting up your business, what challenges did you face?
Setting up the business was a very difficult task, you have to be organised and be highly passionate about what you are doing. I made many costly mistakes when starting up. Finding the right teams to get special tasks done is very important as it allows the professionals to not only teach you how it’s done but also complete the job at hand effectively.
You are travelling back and forth between Italy and visiting your suppliers, how did you go about finding your suppliers and was it a challenge to get them to back a fledgling label?
Finding artisans for the brand was a very difficult task which took a few months and a few visits to Italy, craftsmen are closely guarded in Italy and it is a tough job to find suppliers and build a relationship with them. It required a lot of effort physically and mentally as not many points of contacts are happy to point a young designer in the right direction. Once I managed to create the contact with a family run workshop they quickly understood my passion as we both share the love of craftsmanship which benefits the Givano Roceni brand.
Do you have a mentor and are there other designers or brands you look to for inspiration?
I have a general business adviser who helped me to think outside of the box from time to time, I also turn to my older brother who has supported me through the rough patches of starting up and also enjoys the more successful periods with me. In terms of a mentor who is industry specific I don’t have one at the moment so I have been learning and developing myself.
I admire artists and how they can create a masterpiece from a blank canvas. There is a link between art and luxury, as an artist paints his or her masterpiece based on their own inspiration and individuality to create something unique a designer creates and refines their piece into a work of art reflecting their individuality.
I believe designers have something in common regardless of the industry we work in but I take to Ozwald Boateng who has created an amazing universe around his brand, his brand consists of tailor made suits using fine materials and also craftsmanship which I believe he refers to as “the cut” so if you think about Givano Roceni which incorporates fine materials and craftsmanship it proves that designers have their similarities whilst remaining completely different.
I also look at Oliver Rousteing who did an amazing job with Balmain, entering in to such a huge brand at a relatively young age and making a positive impact in a short space of time is a big achievement which deserves credit.
Why was it key for you to establish your own brand, as opposed to, say, working for a big fashion house
When I create it is about the individual so I like things to be done in a very specific way which can only be understood and explored under my own brand Givano Roceni. I wanted my own creative freedom and my own independence as a businessman. I lead with my own creativity and create to my own taste. I enjoy the feeling of starting with a design – developing and refining the design into a work of art which can be appreciated through the craftsmanship and fine quality materials that I personally select for my collections.
I have a sense of creativity which is accustomed to my own taste as I create pieces that I will be proud to use myself. The feeling of realising and refining my own designs and experiencing them come to life bearing the Givano Roceni logo is a feeling that I don’t believe could be achieved if I worked for another brand. Givano Roceni is my canvas which I am painting to reflect my individual taste and expressions.