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Valextra Opens in Rome

Valextra's second Italian retail outpost was unveiled earlier this month in Rome.

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Valextra’s second Italian retail outpost was unveiled earlier this month in Rome.

This story first appeared in the July 27, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 1,944-square-foot boutique, located on Via Bocca di Leone, is part of the development strategy mapped out by the luxury brand’s chairman and chief executive officer Emanuele Carminati Molina.

Carminati Molina, who is also the owner of Valextra through his holding company Carfin 92, took control of the brand in 2000, enamored of its craftsmanship and style. Over the last nine years, Carminati Molina has worked to redefine Valextra’s identity and bring it back to its glory days in the Sixties and Seventies, when the brand’s bags and luggage were a favorite of VIPs such as Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly and Gianni Agnelli. Today, a new wave of contemporary celebrities, ranging from Jennifer Aniston and Katie Holmes to Charlotte Casiraghi and Victoria Beckham, are often photographed carrying Valextra’s functional totes.

“We now have these new, fresh and modern products that respect and reflect the brand’s traditional workmanship, its clean and timeless lines, its details and absolute luxury, and several apparel items, and our own stores can express it all,” said Carminati Molina at Valextra’s sprawling headquarters in Milan, in the same 19th-century palazzo that houses the brand’s only other boutique in Italy.

He added there are no plans for the company to turn into a retailer, but rather it will continue to build its wholesale business. However, Carminati Molina said he would like to add stores in London and New York. There are stores in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The brand is also available at department stores such as Harrods in London and Mitsukoshi and Isetan in Tokyo, as well as specialty stores such as Barneys New York, 10 Corso Como in Milan and Seoul and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.

With the just formed Valextra Japan, Carminati Molina hopes to develop the Far Eastern market. Seoul and Singapore are up next on the executive’s agenda, as is Dubai.

“Rome goes against stream and is not suffering as much as other cities more impacted by the crisis,” said Carminati Molina, who expects the store to have sales of about 1.2 million euros, or $1.6 million at current exchange, in the first year.

In 2008, the company registered sales of 6 million euros, or $8.8 million at average exchange, and revenues in 2009 are expected to be in line with that.

The Rome boutique is an evolution of the one in Milan and was designed by architect Pierluigi Cerri with the same light pear wood fixtures, crystal showcases and desert stone blocks, but there is “less emphasis on design compared to the Milan store, which is very clean and rational,” said Carminati Molina. In the Rome store, there is “more color, more wood and less stone for a more comfortable atmosphere,” he said.

Architect Paolo Bonazzi was in charge of the new design, which will be transferred onto the Milan boutique.

Carminati Molina said Valextra products are produced by hand in the Milan and Bergamo areas, but he is evaluating ways to be competitive in this difficult economy without compromising quality.

“There is undoubtedly a resistance to price and a feeling of guilt among shoppers, but we are optimizing our costs, looking for components that may help us lower our budgets,” he said. “Lowering our prices would not be a solution. We are focused on working in a more intelligent way, more aware of costs.”

Valextra’s best-selling bags include the Tammy, retailing at 2,100 euros, or $2,929, and the Babila, retailing at 1,350 euros, or $1,883.

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