Slam. Like the sound of a sail snapping in the wind. Slam. Like the sound of the 470 sails with which Enrico Chieffi and his brother Tommaso won the 1985 World Championship. Slam. Like the sails of the Moro di Venezia at the 1992 America’s Cup with Enrico Chieffi as tactician. Slam. Like the sails of the Star with which, together with Roberto Sinibaldi, he won the world championship in 1996. Slam. Like the sails of the thousands of boats Enrico Chieffi has raced and SLAM like the name of the company, SLAM s.p.a., founded in 1979 and now renamed SLAM.com, with Enrico Chieffi at the helm. “Although I wasn’t born a helmsman. I became one,” explains Chieffi. “I was born as a bowman. On the 470 Tommaso would helm and I would look around and tell where to go. I owe a lot to sailing, a crazy school of life. In work and in life I have learnt to use everything I learned on the boat. Above all, to look ahead. Which is what you do on a sailing boat.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium, raised in Marina di Carrara, Tuscany, he is 58 years old and has a degree in economics and commerce (but he wanted to study engineering and has retained that approach: “Even on a boat, I have always approached things by applying the method”). Enrico Chieffi joined the newco SLAM.com after 23 years at Leonardo Ferragamo’s Nautor’s Swan: from sales director to managing director and vice-president. “At a certain point, however, I told myself that it was time for a new challenge. I would have liked to go from manager to entrepreneur.
And an opportunity came along… That’s right. A friend of mine, Francesco Trapani of VAM Investments, a holding company specialising in private equity investments, asked me to help him evaluate a sailing-related clothing company he’d been offered, SLAM s.p.a. This was an atypical investment for his company, which generally, when taking over a company, leaves a significant stake to the owners who are supported by managers. In this case, however, the idea was to take over the entire company.
What was your assessment?
I told Francesco that it was a good opportunity and I proposed that we do the operation together. His response was that it was necessary to find an entrepreneur and that I should become one.
And his answer?
He gave me a range of possibilities for commitment. I meditated on it. I also spoke to Leonardo (Ferragamo, of Nautor’s Swan, ed.) who supported me and said it was a wonderful opportunity.
What kind of company is SLAM?
There is a whole generation of sailors who have grown up with SLAM. It’s a well-known brand not only in Italy but also abroad. The website, which we’re working on to adapt it to modern e-commerce, which isn’t easy, is very popular. In short, it is not only a strong but also a much-loved starting point, but over the years it has lost its identity. Our aim is clear. We want to give the brand back its strong identity and make it the Italian brand of reference not only in Italy.
What will be the steps of this relaunch?
There are three areas of intervention. The first concerns the identity and includes the Custom collection, dedicated to top-level athletes, the Pro collection for regattas and high-level cruises, and an Outdoor line with items, such as the scooter jacket, whose materials and technical solutions will be absolutely similar to those used in regattas. In addition, there is the Accessories line. The other sectors are production, some of which we will bring back to Europe from the Far East and China, and a lot of which we will bring back to Italy, without price surprises for customers. Finally, the communication sector.
And communication includes sponsorship. What are the projects?
Our sponsorship concept is to work with athletes and sailing organisations to bring them closer to ordinary people. The investments we make in the testimonial, the sailing school or the regatta will help to make them famous. There are athletes from other sports that everyone knows. We’d like our sailors, our champions to be known even by those who are not sailing enthusiasts. In short, we would like to bring sailing into everyday life.
Speaking of sponsorship, you are technical supplier to the Italian Sailing Federation. What are the programmes?
We don’t just provide the uniforms for the ceremonies, but we provide the athletes with all the garments, especially the technical ones to go racing with their boat. There is an extreme specialisation in technical garments for different boats such as the 470 or the 49er and the Kitefoil. And the same is true for many types of sailing. I’m thinking of the worlds of offshore racing, from club racing to ocean racing. That’s why we’re carrying out research in collaboration with the Milan and Turin Polytechnics.
A final question on sportswear, which has become a way of life. How are you meeting this challenge?
Sportwear, as the figures show, is a constantly growing category. And growth is the reason why this company was set up. Secondly, sportswear garments have technical content that city garments do not have. And we are working on research and the development of innovative solutions. Thirdly, the severity of sailing, where you are exposed to elements that are sometimes more extreme than in the mountains. And here we are responding with the Outdoor line, which will have the same qualities and technologies as the Pro collection, designed to be used every day and to make people feel part of the sailing world, even in the city.
Last but not least. What does Enrico Chieffi bring to SLAM.com?
The method. The system I would like to apply to this company, which in 42 years has created style, technology, communication and passion, but which I believe has lacked method. And as a good tactician, I am used to looking ahead.