The family-owned Italian company is moving beyond leather handbags and into accessories such as eyewear, footwear, jewelry, watches, scarves and small leather goods in a bid to transform itself into a lifestyle brand that appeals to a wider audience.
Furla has also been revamping its stores worldwide, with architectural elements inspired by the firm’s headquarters in an 18th-century villa in Bologna, and materials including rosewood and Italian travertine marble for an overall lighter and more modern feel.
“We are not just a handbag shop,” Eraldo Poletto, Furla’s chief executive officer, said in an interview here as the brand was marking the reopening of the store at 221 Regent Street, one of its most important flagships.
“We’ve grown a lot over the past three years, and we now need to make the leap to compete in a market that is more dynamic than ever.”
The Regent Street store, which spans 1,938 square feet over two floors, is across the street from a Michael Michael Kors accessories shop and a few minutes’ walk from a new Longchamp unit, which are among the brand’s competitors.
Regent Street isn’t the first Furla unit to undergo a facelift, but it’s a major one in terms of tourist traffic. Some 45 stores worldwide have been transformed since August 2011, and there are more to come: 25 stores are set to be refurbished in 2014.
The brand is paying particular attention to the cities where Furla makes its money, which are those frequented by global travelers and shoppers. The company refers to the cities as a “Silk Road” that starts in Tokyo, and moves through places including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Dubai, Moscow, Rome, Florence, London and New York.
A new store in Florence opened earlier this month, while Furla plans to open a Manhattan flagship on Fifth Avenue in May. As reported, the company inked a joint-venture deal with Hong Kong-based Fung Group to open more than 100 Furla stores in Greater China. The brand has 24 stores in that market.
Japan is currently Furla’s largest market, accounting for 27 percent of the company’s revenue. The brand has 69 stores in the country and the company is looking to leverage its presence in Japan as it expands to other Asian markets.
Europe, the Middle East and Africa account for half of the business, while Asia Pacific represents 14 percent and the U.S. 9 percent.
In 2012, sales hit 212 million euros, or $274 million, a 38 percent rise over 2010, and Poletto said the company is expecting to see “high double-digit growth” going forward.
Furla is privately owned by the founding Furlanetto family, and Poletto said it is self-funded, there is no debt, and EBITDA, or earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization, are robust.
“We’re positioned well — we’re not competing with the likes of luxury companies such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, but we are fighting against them for prime real estate space — and, in this case, size matters,” he said.
Furla does about 80 percent of its business through its own retail shops, including franchises, while the rest comes from wholesale. It has more than 300 travel retail doors open worldwide, and Poletto said the plan is to expand that channel, too.
There are other plans afoot in addition to retail expansion: In February, Furla will launch a Chinese-language e-commerce site (it already has dedicated sites for Europe and Japan) and may look to introduce a fragrance.
The brand already has an eyewear license with the Italian manufacturer De Rigo SpA, and Poletto said the company is open to forging similar partnerships with companies such as De Rigo that have a specific expertise.
Ready-to-wear is not on the agenda. Poletto said the focus will remain on accessories, and on showcasing them in cultural and artistic venues such as Tokyo’s National Museum, where the brand launched its spring collection in November. The spring campaign was shot by Marton Perlaki and Philippe Lacombe.
He added that more projects like Furla Candy, a collection of color-drenched handbags made from PVC and leather, are in the cards. “That was a cross-generational product, and it revitalized the brand,” Poletto said. “We have to continue to have the courage not to play it safe.”
“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
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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