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MILAN — Two years into the job as creative directors of Bally, Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz are ready to move the brand forward, expanding its luxury content and pushing for even higher quality.
This story first appeared in the June 11, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During a recent trip to Milan, Herz highlighted how the Bally product reflected “the meeting of heritage and modernity. Heritage is not enough, it must also be contemporary.” For example, Fidler said, they are both looking again at the construction of the brand’s men’s shoes, “marrying that craftsmanship with technology,” and a more up-to-date feel. “We are working on the fundamentals to make them even more coherent, reducing the lasts, for instance,” he explained.
On June 19, during Pitti Uomo in Florence, the company will hold a cocktail to celebrate “the world of Bally Icons,” such as the men’s Scribe collection — hand-crafted shoes with multiple stitching, exquisite brogueing, Goodyear welting and traditional manual dyeing processes. “The Scribe is the highest level of construction,” said Fidler.
The men’s division accounts for 60 percent of sales. The designers said a stand-alone retail project dedicated to the Scribe is in the works, with “a very specific architecture.” Five Scribe Shops are expected to open in the next 18 months, but details are still being worked out. The idea is to eventually extend the Scribe concept to women, too.
Fidler underscored Bally’s “huge retail business.” The company, founded in 1851 by Carl Franz Bally in Switzerland’s Schönenwerd, has 162 directly controlled boutiques, 71 franchised units, 103 duty free stores and 22 outlets. In addition, there are 346 multibrand stores that carry the brand globally. The company is planning to relocate its London store on Bond Street in the first half of 2013, updating it with a new concept, and also is looking possibly refurbishing its Milan store on Via Montenapoleone by next year. A store in Manhattan is also in the cards, but there is no precise timing.
Although the firm, which is controlled by Labelux Group, parent company of brands including Jimmy Choo and Derek Lam, declined to provide sales figures, it revealed that revenues in 2011 increased 13 percent compared with the previous year, and that sales are expected to gain 10 percent in 2012.
Asia accounts for 48 percent of sales. “It’s hugely important, Bally entered China 25 years ago and it has a strong foothold in the country, with more than 50 stores. The brand is really well-known there,” said Herz, adding that he was surprised to discover that the brand is also popular in Australia and Singapore.
Europe accounts for 27 percent of sales and the U.S. represents 8 percent of revenues. Herz said that market is doing “really well, it turned around,” and noted that the mid-heel pump is the best selling item. There are 12 stores and three outlets in the U.S.
Today, footwear and accessories each represent 45 percent of sales, while ready-to-wear accounts for the remaining 10 percent. The brief from the company is to keep “things balanced,” said the designers.
This also means limiting Bally’s product extensions. One such example is the licensing deal with TWC L’Amy for the development and distribution of a collection of optical frames and sunglasses inked in January and to bow in October. Entry price points for shoes and bags are 350 euros, or $435.30, and 900 euros, or $1,119 at current exchange, respectively.
A successor to chief executive officer Berndt Hauptkorn, who exited the company at the end of 2011, has not been named, but the designers said they have been working closely with Labelux ceo Reinhard Mieck.
To further highlight the brand’s heritage, Bally evolved the theme explored in its spring campaign for the fall one, with New York-based photographer Norman Jean Roy moving to Verbier, Switzerland, from Gstaad to shoot Caroline Trentini and Hilary Rhoda posing at the prestigious Chalet d’Adrien against the snow-capped Swiss Alps. “We go back to Bally’s roots and inherent culture, and we keep the setting, as the spring campaign was well received by markets and friends, but this season it’s edgier, there’s a lot of leather and more fashion content,” said Herz.