Our Menswear Dialogue Series continues this week in an interview with Bortex Group, Maltese menswear manufacturer and international retailer. We had the pleasure of speaking with Brand Manager, Mr. Sam Borg and learning more about the big things this family owned business is doing in on the small island of Malta.
Image Granted ~What is your title, job, craft?
Sam Borg ~ Brand Manager at Gagliardi.
My skill set comes to the fore in several areas although I would be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate the work of very talented and supportive people around me. I get very passionate about the creative side of the brand’s activities: the collection, the branding and the in store shop experience.
Still, I am very aware of the important implications of stock distribution, merchandising and sales analysis / reporting. Probably my strongest area is the front line work, effectively the sales aspect. Being the third generation of a family business places me on the forefront of several facets of the company’s operations. Through my nature I immerse myself in all aspects but definitely do my best to stay focused on Gagliardi.
IG ~What are your passionate about? How did you get into this business? What gets you out of bed every morning?
SB ~ I’m passionate about several things and spent a thoroughly action packed and enjoyable upbringing trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with myself. I always enjoyed achieving, whether that was in a sporting, academic or cultural context. The idea of ‘business’ and what it entailed always served to stir a sort of ‘double edged sword’ of emotions. On the one hand I wanted to do something I was passionate about and on the flip side of the coin do something I was good at and trained in.
I read Law at University and was offered some very interesting positions in some top corporate Law firms in the UK after my degree. However, it wasn’t until mid-way through my second year of university that my father started floating about the idea of starting our own brand. Having been a clothing enthusiast growing up and being allured by the possibility of being involved in something from its embryonic stages, I was very excited and it immediately got me thinking.
Once it became clear that my father’s ideas and mine were of a similar guise, together with assurances that I would have the opportunity to leave my own footprint on the company I signed up to join the Bortex ranks. The ironic thing is that I spent my whole life shrugging off any notion of joining the family business. Still, I was sure of the choice I’d made and looked to the future with a lot of hunger and excitement.
IG ~The Bortex Group has a long history of manufacturing in Malta. How and why has Bortex been so successful in producing in such a small and relatively unknown geographical area?
SB ~ Malta has always been an important strategic point in the Mediterranean, going as far back as the early Phoenician traders the island was a key trade route in the Mediterranean.
Having fought the second World War so gallantly alongside the Allies, the island was left in tatters and everything had to start from the ground up. The fact the British were still in Malta helped to set up a solid system of governance and other important institutions to facilitate economic growth and competitiveness on the international market. Competitive wage rates, a population desperately in need of employment and a country keen to grow in economic stature meant that Malta became an extremely competitive manufacturing based economy.
My grandfather took advantage of this opportunity and started the business in 1964 as a joint venture with the Dutch Van Gils Group. It went from strength to strength manufacturing men’s tailoring and before long the Company was wholly Maltese owned by the Borg family. It was not without its challenges: adapting to market, industry and labour law changes meant that Bortex had to constantly keep on its toes and be ready to diversify at a moment’s notice. Bortex has successfully earned a reputation internationally and is well-known within the menswear manufacturing industry where the company continues to make product for some top international brands maintaining quality and service as brands as their company ethos.
IG ~Bortex Group has made most of business on mass production. Has this always been the case? Will this be the case in the future? In a landscape where many manufacturers are providing are more individualized and personal consumer experience what plans are there for Bortex to enter this space, if any?
SB ~ Looking back over the course of the Bortex history there was certainly a time when mass production was at its peak and competition was mainly based on this. Over the years Bortex has operated in different segments of the market, when production was based for middle level brands the orders were substantial and the tailored product relatively simple in production terms. For many years Bortex did this successfully but the fall of the Soviet block and emergence of China meant that Bortex had to diversify in order to compete.
Moving away from large volume orders, Bortex re-positioned itself to deal with higher level brands manufacturing a much more high-end, intricate and styled product. This served as further inspiration for the Company who embarked on an effective strategy to improve its portfolio and diversify into other product areas such as ladies’ formal garments as well as men’s shirts, accessories and sportswear. It continues to supply the best names on the European high street with private label product as well as providing its own brands or a number of international brands under licence.
IG ~It seems Gagliardi is the flagship brand for Bortex Group. How did Galiardi come about and what are Bortex's plans for growing the brand's awareness in other markets?
SB ~Gagliardi is Bortex’s flagship brand and it was only natural that after several years of experience in the manufacturing and retail industry, the company would take to rolling out its own brand. Gagliardi came about after many years of research both in the industry and different markets. It was imperative to capture something unique, compelling and desirable for the discerning 21st century male.
The concept revolves around the whole idea of offering an experience rather than just a product. Research proves that most men let their women do their shopping but we wanted to entice the Gagliardi man to start coming over to our shops, trying out our garments and enjoying the in store / shopping experience
Extensive research proved us right about the gap in the market with regard to high quality but affordable clothing. We like to call it ‘Aspirational but Affordable,’ clothing. So what better way to develop Gagliardi than filling in that gap with our product and concept offering? Gagliardi is fresh and epitomises all the best things about Mediterranean living. Every season is inspired by several Mediterranean locations, traditions, cuisines and la bella vita.
The strategy we hope to adopt is one of organic growth. Essentially not trying to run before we’ve mastered the walking. The brand is making inroads into different markets and is developing a loyal customer base online. It has been extremely well received and customers have immediately sensed the message being voiced - that being the ability to indulge in a unique shopping experience at incredibly competitive prices, without having to feel guilty about overspending. The tag line of “distinctly Mediterranean” is a brand signature along with an extensive product range made ever more appealing by enticing colour palettes and the latest fashion trends.
Whilst lending references to inspirational classic pieces, the brand is modern and commercial. Gagliardi may be reached online via its website and ecommerce stream, and is well represented on social media connecting with enthusiasts and followers of the same identity.
IG ~What can consumers expect from Bortex Group and Gagliardi in the future? What should a menswear novice be looking for? What should an experienced enthusiast watch out for?
SB ~ Both entities are growing exponentially, as Bortex’s production lines are continually sought after by various up-market brands – many of which we are contractually bound not to disclose, and Gagliardi likewise is growing at an accelerated, but organic pace.
The brand’s identity has certainly been really well received, and a style novice can safely make choices in the knowledge that he will not be committing any fashion faux-pas – our online blog regularly features posts attributed for the rookie as well as other for the more knowledgeable gent, and our online customer care has time and again been praised for helping in selection and specific requirements. Definitely, one must look out for the new ways in which the lifestyle brand will be displayed in coming seasons, as well as to look out for a Gagliardi appearance in a fashion fair such as Pitti Uomo et al.