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《中国商业周刊》 2008年12月1日
记者:Liu Jie

高级时装品牌范思哲的首席执行官Giancarlo Di Risio 在11月来访北京时,告诉中国商业周刊:“在范思哲,我们可以肯定地说金融危机还未对我们造成影响。”当时,他说的的确是事实。据全球性战略咨询公司贝恩公司在10月19日发布的一项调查显示,今年前3个季度,全球奢侈品市场仍然一派繁荣。

"At Versace, we can say for sure that the financial crisis has not yet had an impact on us," CEO of the high-fashion brand Giancarlo Di Risio told China Business Weekly during a recent visit to Beijing in November.

What he said was true then, as US-based market research house Bain & Company's survey, revealed on October 19, shows, during the first three quarters, the global luxury market was still prosperous.

But the report indicates that as more consumers, especially the wealthiest, turn frugal, high-end brands will face a slowdown next year. The BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - are expected to somewhat offset the decline in developed marketplaces.

During the CEO's visit, along with the brand holder, vice-president and creative director of Versace Donatella Versace, Di Risio revealed a series for ambitious expansion plans in China - new shops, new design elements, as well as new business.

According to Sun Yi, editor-in-chief of China Fashion Weekly and a senior garment industry analyst, Versace and many other premier fashion brands, such as LV, Gucci and Chanel, are smart to "prepare for the foul in the fair weather", or to use China as a fortress to avoid financial woes.

New boutiques
Since establishing its first store in Shanghai in 2006, Versace has set up 15 wholly owned boutiques on the Chinese mainland by the end of October. The fashion house will invest 45 million euros to open 11 stores worldwide next year, five on the mainland, including a flagship store in Beijing.

The stores are uniformly elegant. They feature black marble floors, white lacquer walls, white enamel ceilings with black and white wooden and leather furniture and bright crystal bead curtains.

In Versace boutiques in China, along with garments, accessories play important roles. Shoes, bags, watches and jewelry occupy around half of the business space.

"Compared with western nations, Chinese luxury consumers are young. Clothes seem too expensive to them, while accessories are affordable," notes analyst Sun.

Declining to give revenues of each store, Di Risio says every boutique in China is making a profit. So far, around one third of its sales in Asia, excluding Japan, are from China.

A recent Goldman Sachs's report indicates that China has become the world No 2 consumer market for luxury products, with the business scale reaching $8 billion yuan last year. Eighteen percent of global luxury consumption came from China, and about 13 percent of the 1.3 billion Chinese people have bought luxury goods.

The world leading financial institute forecasts that China will surpass Japan to be the top luxury marketplace globally by 2015, with sales exceeding $11.5 billion and making up 29 percent of the global consumption.

New elements
In addition to taking shares of the Chinese market, Versace is interested in introducing traditional Chinese elements into its design. In October 2006, Donatella Versace came to China for the first time, where she wore a black slim coat with a mandarin standing collar and visited the Palace Museum and Tian'anmen Square to find inspiration.

This time, when attending a press conference, Di Risio wore a red silk tie designed by Donatella Versace sporting Chinese emperor icons.
At Verasace's first fashion show in China, held on November 13 in Beijing, many traditional Chinese design elements, such as paint, wash drawing and ink, as well as traditional clothing designs were presented.

Versace, once renowned for its revealing designs, has adjusted its focus to softer lines and accessories. "It also matches the aesthetic of Chinese women, who are humble and modest," says Versace.

New business
Versace started to play "crossover" with a cross-industry cooperation strategy in 2000 when it was in partnership with Sunland Group Ltd, an Australian development company, to open Palazzo Versace, the first hotel project branded by a luxury goods company on the Australian Gold Coast. A similar six-star resort is expected to be finished by 2010 in Dubai.

"We have similar plan in China, to erect a super-six-star resort in a coastal city within three years, where travelers can experience and enjoy the complete Versace lifestyle," says Di Risio, who declines to reveal the site.

In July 2006, the company reached an agreement with TAG for "Versace Design" - an interior design service for private jets. The fashion icon has also linked its brand with Lamborghini, the New York Plaza Hotel, as well as real estate giants Attire and Africa-Israel.

The crossover business will be a new growth engine for Versace in China, says Di Risio.

The former CEO of premier brands Fend and IT holdings was appointed to the current position in September 2004, a move that turned Versace from a family business to a management-run global luxury goods corporation.

According to Forbes China's 2008 Luxury Brand Research, Versace is among the top 10 luxury garment names in China, shoulder-to-shoulder with Hermes, LVMH, Zeugma and Pravda.

Currently Versace boasts a worldwide retail network, which includes 110 freestanding boutiques in principle cities and 123 corners in multi-brand and department stores.

Last year, global sales of Versace increased by 20 percent to hit 310 billion euros, though Di Risio declines to forecast 2008 sales.

Though he said in September 2006 during his visit to China with Donatella Versace that the company planned to go public, Di Risio told China Business Weekly that Versace is not rushing for a listing due to the uncertainty of the global financial market.