Interview: Flavio Briatore

Italian entrepreneur Flavio Briatore's fashion brand is as colorful as his life

Interview: Flavio Briatore

“’Billionaire’ is an arrogant name,” concedes Flavio Briatore during an interview with The Peak Singapore. “It’s a name that people remember immediately. But the products are accessible to everybody – we never did this brand for billionaires or millionaires.” Briatore was in Singapore for the official opening of the first Billionaire Couture store. The flamboyant Italian entrepreneur might be familiar to you from his ventures in Formula One and Benetton. 

Accessibility, to return to Briatore's point, is relative. Prices at the Billionaire Couture store at Marina Bay Sands start at S$300 from a silk tie, topping out at a five-digit price tag for a fur-lined leather jacket. However, as its 64-year-old founder points out, “the prices are proportionate to the quality”.

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All the brand’s items are made in some 30 workshops “from north to south Italy”, using materials such as Italian silks and cottons, and exotic leathers. A quick perusal of the store – where items such as red brocade jackets and suede smoking slippers are spotlighted – might leave one with the impression that the brand is only for those with the showiest of style sensibilities, but Briatore demurs.

Indeed, he proves this himself with his comfortably – and confidently – insouciant outfit of black T-shirt and dark blue jeans, both by his own label, on this day. Elaborating on how the brand came to be in 2005, he says: “I saw a space in the menswear market. Women have a huge selection, men have very few options. For men, it was either very ‘fashion’ – or very boring. So we went in the middle. Twenty per cent of Billionaire is a little bit wild, but 80 per cent of it is more classic.”

 

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It’s a formula that has found favor with many – Billionaire Couture now has some 30 boutiques and more than 60 points of sale worldwide, notably in cities synonymous with the high life: St Tropez, London, Las Vegas, Dubai, and so on.

Fashion is but a small part of Briatore’s portfolio. His Billionaire Life luxury brand also includes nightclubs, restaurants and resorts; the former boss of the Renault (now Lotus) Formula One team now manages driver Fernando Alonso. A pretty impressive CV, considering that Briatore has been through some tumultuous times, including a conviction for gambling fraud in Italy in the 1980s. His personal life has been no less colorful: He has a well-documented penchant for dating fashion models, and in 2008 married former Wonderbra model Elisabetta Gregoraci. They have a four-year-old son, whose picture Briatore proudly shows us on his mobile phone: “Look at his long hair, he looks like a gypsy!”

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His paternal pride is evident, and we can’t help feeling that his family has finally given him a measure of stability, even as he continues to shuttle between Monte CarloMonaco and London. Would he, we ask, do anything differently if he could go back in time?

He says with a shrug: “People always say, ‘I would do nothing differently.’ Of course you would change a lot if you could go back, because you now have the hindsight and experience – but this is impossible. But you only have one life, and you never know how long you’ll stay around. So just be happy.”

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