To the thumping beats of dance music, designer Roberto Cavalli stuck two fingers up to the recession and launched his own credit card at Milan Fashion Week.
The snakeskin-patterned card aims to give users access to the world of Cavalli, from fashion show attendance to pre-sale events. Cardholders also get a 24-hour concierge service and hotel and travel upgrades.
The card, developed by Corpcom, a subsidiary of the Trium Group, is initially being made available in Italy, but will be rolled out globally in the near future in partnership with Mastercard Worldwide. Annual membership will cost between €179 (£159) and €199 (£177) depending on the country of residence.
Hischam Telib, chief executive of Corpcom, claims that service-based credit cards are the future: “We are creating a customer relationship, a programme which is needed. Companies need and want to be closer to their customers.”
Catharina Eklof, vice-president of co-branding at Mastercard Europe, says that added services can make financial brands more than commodities: “”Credit cards and payment cards are common products. You need a clear value proposition and benefits that customers can actually relate to.””
The right climate?
But in a recession, do consumers really want a high fashion-branded credit card when they are spending less? Mastercard’s Eklof says the company’s research indicated that fashion is one of the top lifestyle interests for women. Cavalli has a strong female bias within Europe but appeals to both genders in Asia.
Eklof hopes the Cavalli card will take financial services into new territory – high end, co-branded products traditionally have been aimed at businessmen. She says: “When you look at what people want, there is an untapped market for women.”
This card is not just being marketed at the super-rich, but also those who aspire to buy Roberto Cavalli products, whether clothes, vodka, clubs or even prams.
While Cavalli claims such projects “stimulate” his “creativity”, there is also an important financial incentive for the latest licensing deal. The designer was forced to cancel the show of his secondary line, Just Cavalli, days before, citing difficulties. The “difficulties” may well have included Ittiere, the manufacturer under licence, going into administration a few weeks earlier.
Supermodel Milla Jovovich is endorsing the credit card and features in an online ad. In the mini-movie viral, she decides just to pack the Roberto Cavalli card before jumping into a convertible car driven by the fashion designer himself.
It’s being advertised online because, according to Corpcom’s Telib, the target market spends much of their lives online and “that is where the world is moving.”
More of these co-branded cards are already being planned. Corpcom claims it is talking to other luxury clothing lines. Later this year, a Formula One financial services product will be launched aimed at fans of the racing sport, which will not just be a credit card but will also include prepay services.
Can the Cavalli card and future luxury service credit cards help businesses and consumers spend their way out of a recession? Telib asserts: “The message is to show confidence in this market. It’s a tough time, but without self confidence it will take a lot longer to get out of this crisis.”
Jo Roberts, reporting from Milan Fashion Week