The Calza brothers spoke to MAFED students about how they transformed a small online business into a global brand, an inspiring story about perseverance. They shared how they stay true to themselves in an industry of high pressure and constantly evolving trends.
Brothers Giuliano and Giordano Calza have never really gone with the status quo. That was true even before they started GCDS. They moved together to Shanghai in their 20s – Giuliano even turned down an impressive job offer to do so – and spent a few years managing their own restaurants. Giuliano, now Creative Director of GCDS, began designing street style pieces, the first GCDS hoodies and socks, while still in China, and when it started to become popular online, he asked his brother to help out, putting his economic background at the service of the budding brand. Giordano is now CEO of GCDS.
The brothers spoke to students of the Master of Fashion, Experience and Design about “Reshaping the approach to the market to deal with new consumer trends.” Their experience was a perfect case study of the subjects of the MAFED’s Fashion Marketing course, which seeks to give participants an understanding of the marketing problems faced by firms today and equip them with what they need to make decisions in a rapidly changing environment.
They were given a warm welcome from director Emanuela Prandelli, who introduced their speech by stressing how "GCDS represents a perfect synthesis of the ability to understand emerging changes in consumers' behaviors and values, on the one hand, and the willingness to put the rules of the game under discussion and be true to yourself, by selling a message before than a product, on the other."
Giuliano and Giordano encouraged students to forge their own path in what they do. Nonetheless, they also were candid about the fact that part of being in this industry means playing the game and sometimes bowing to the expectations and trends of the market. Striking a balance between these two is what has allowed them to thrive. They found the right formula for a successful brand that is driven mainly by the creative desires of its vision.
Their brand has in fact revolutionized the streetwear game, blending pop culture, luxury and Italian craftsmanship, and garnering popularity among celebrities and influencers due to its sophisticated style that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“Money is not the goal,” said Giordano, speaking about success. “Satisfaction is the goal.”
That wasn’t the only advice they had for the MAFED class. After all, they were in the same position just few years ago. Both brothers are Bocconi and SDA Bocconi alumni. They advised the students to start from the bottom in a stage or entry-level position because it is humbling and shows you who you are. And they reassured that sometimes doing things you don’t like is just part of the process of success.
Students were eager to ask questions for both Giuliano and Giordano. They asked about the evolution of the brand, Giuliano’s creative process, working together as brothers, how they deal with the trends of consumer demands and what they look for with new hires.
The brothers offered endless pieces of life and professional advice. Their philosophy seemed to have a lasting effect on students.
They spoke fervently about the importance of values as individuals and a business, such as sustainability and inclusion. For them, this is natural, and comes from their background growing up and living in different places and with different people. Their products are entirely Made in Italy, a choice they made to improve the quality and sustainability of their brand.
“We are in an era of kind management,” said Giordano. “You need to be kind because the world is completely different. This is important for us because we are managing more than 100 people. At the end of the day we have one common goal.”
SDA Bocconi School of Management