MILAN — Leveraging a 20 percent increase in its handbags division over the last two seasons, footwear designer René Caovilla is investing in the category with an expanded, dedicated design team.
“Handbags are working really well for us and our customers are increasingly asking us also for this accessory,” said Caovilla.
More daywear models will be added to the brand’s iconic feather and Swarovski styles.
“We realized our handbags have as much draw as our shoes,” said Giorgia Caovilla, company vice president and daughter of the founder.
The designer said the handbags will be in line with the finely crafted footwear line, made by hand in Italy and detailed with precious embellishments. The average shoe price retails upward of $1,000.
At the same time, the company is venturing into new markets and expanding its retail network around the world. In July, the brand opened its first store in Venice.
“At long last, we finally found the position we wanted and it wasn’t easy,” said Caovilla.
Located next to Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, the store is steps from the city’s main square, the postcard staple Piazza San Marco.
“It took patience and a dose of good luck,” said the designer, whose company is based in Fiesso d’Artico, between Padua and Venice.
By 2010, Caovilla plans 20 stores around the world. In addition to Venice, there are boutiques in Milan, Rome, Paris, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Beverly Hills, Palm Beach, Fla., and Porto Cervo, on Italy’s island of Sardinia. The company opened its second U.S. store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills this spring. Giorgia Caovilla said the boutique offered great visibility and had strong sell-throughs.
“American customers get us and they are more daring than Europeans,” she said. “They are confident enough to wear high heels and jeweled shoes during the day, [unlike] many Europeans.”
A store in Bal Harbour, Fla., will open in the fall, and another is set for 2011 at Las Vegas’ new $9 billion CityCenter mall.
Units in Saudi Arabia and Moscow will open this year and boutiques in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in India are slated for 2009. Caovilla said the firm worked on expanding its wholesale distribution two years ago, but shifted the focus to its own retail units. That said, Caovilla added that department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are considered expanding distribution of the brand.
“My dream is to open a store in New York,” she said, adding that the company does “not want to expand too much, but rather remain a niche label.”
Caovilla said the company cannot compete with giant conglomerates in advertising spend, and rather relies on word of mouth — and a little help from celebrities, such as Uma Thurman, Carrie Underwood or Felicity Huffman, who have worn styles from the brand.
The Venice store is modeled as a 1700s Venetian palazzo, with tapestries, tables with gold-leaf motives, brocade upholstering and Chinese vases — all authentic pieces that belong to the designer’s personal collection.
Next year, Caovilla will open a museum at the firm’s headquarters, displaying 3,000 archival pieces. A book on the designer’s work and inspirations is also set for publication in 2009, a big year for the company, as Caovilla said he will launch a costume jewelry collection and a fragrance.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast