by Karen Alberg Grossman


Marco Baldessari
Marco Baldessari

In just a few short years, Eleventy has become a go-to staple for fashionable men (and women) around the globe, as this Italian brand’s sportswear and clothing are now top sellers in leading stores. Recently, founder Marco Baldessari sat down with MR and shared success secrets.

Q: How did the brand come about?

Baldessari: About seven years ago, I had a dream to start my own clothing company. I was working as an agent with Paolo Zuntini repping various Italian lines, and I was always in close communication with my retail accounts. I would ask why customers were buying this and not that; I was willing to listen and learn to discover new windows of opportunity.

What I learned was this: customers with confidence do not need status logos. There is a new generation of consumers between 35 and 55 very different from that age group 10 years ago. They’re into fitness; they eat healthy; they travel. They have money to spend; they appreciate fashion and quality but they don’t need the security of status labels.

So we started a small collection—with no logos—and it’s been growing every year. We now have 80 employees plus artisans working for us throughout Italy (we call them partners, not suppliers). The collection is about lifestyle rather than status. (We sometimes call it luxury leisure, which is more sophisticated than “athleisure”.)

Q: How is the brand doing?

Baldessari: We have eight shops in Italy, seven shop-in-shops with a partner in Korea, and we’re growing throughout Europe and Asia. Our store in Capri sells to many celebrities who can afford to shop anywhere; it makes me proud that very rich people appreciate our product! Our U.S. business is just a few seasons old but it’s taken off: we’re in Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Trunk Club, Stanley Korshak, Mario’s and other fine stores. I sometimes find it all hard to believe.

Q: What’s the secret to your success?

Baldessari: I think it’s a combination of our passion for what we do, our service orientation, and the great prices on our Italian-made fashion. The true luxury customer is more educated than ever. He might buy on impulse but in general, he puts more thought into his purchases. He’s looking for value. But the collection also appeals to a younger generation who loves fashion, appreciates quality but can’t afford to spend their entire rent check on a sportcoat.

Q: Speaking of youthful, is it true that your father wears Eleventy?

Baldessari: Yes, my father is now wearing our clothing, looking like a much younger man and smiling more often. He had been retired, but today, he’s working full time with us in computer support and he’s a new person. “You’ve given me life,” he recently told me. And I can see the adrenaline and the energy that’s come back to him!

And that, for me, is the secret to life. If you love what you do, it’s not work. When I interview people to hire, I don’t care about their resume; I look to see the passion in their eyes.