When the going gets tough, the tough expand into Asia.
That's the mantra of Jayson Brunsdon as he launches his first international boutique today in Singapore — and not in New York, where the Australian designer has been showing his collections for the past three seasons and where he originally scouted retail locations.
Operated under a licensing arrangement with Lanvin Singapore, the 1,614-square-foot boutique at 453 Orchard Road is between the Lanvin and BCBG Max Azria boutiques.
Prices range from $195 for the daywear to as much as $974 for the cocktail and eveningwear. Brunsdon's new 18-piece jewelry line of hand-crocheted corsages, beaded and beribboned French lace chokers and Swarovski crystal-encrusted silver chain necklaces, which double as belts, retails for $49 to $202.
Designed by Brunsdon and his business partner, Aaron Elias, a Singapore native, the boutique's interior mirrors that of the duo's only other stand-alone store — in Sydney's Strand Arcade — and features white walls, chrome cabinetry and black carpets, with a gray slate "catwalk" floor feature.
Hung throughout the space are original paintings of iconic fashion figures such as Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. They were painted by Brunsdon, who worked as a fashion illustrator before venturing into fashion design.
After a soft opening in May, the boutique has been trading ahead of expectations, said Brunsdon, who added that his growing Asian business is picking up much of the slack triggered by the recent U.S. downturn.
After staging three consecutive runway shows at Bryant Park since the fall-winter 2007-2008 season, Brunsdon said the slowed economy had a dramatic impact on his fall-winter 2008-2009 collection sales.
"It's pretty bad" he said. "Fashion is always the first thing that's hit."
Brunsdon sells to 120 retailers worldwide, with 50 percent of his almost $3 million wholesale business done in the Australian market. In addition to his Sydney boutique, Brunsdon sells to eight doors of Australia's Myer department store and 15 other Australian retailers.
Last year Brunsdon sold to about 60 U.S. stores, but that number has since been cut by half. In Asia, however, things are looking up, not only in Singapore, but also Hong Kong, China and, notably, one of the hottest new Asian shopping hubs of Jakarta.
"They're very adventurous with their shopping and they're very eager," he said. "It's like a pastime. They love to go shopping."
He added, "I'm more interested at the moment in doing a show in Asia than I am in doing something anywhere else. I've been talking to IMG, trying to find out where the best place to show is. Sydney is probably the center for the Asia-Pacific area, which is next year in May. But in between, I'm looking at Shanghai, maybe or Singapore."
Brunsdon won't be going back to New York for the spring-summer 2009 shows. However, the decision is not solely because of the state of the U.S. economy.
A month ago, on the second last day of filming of the Australian edition of "Project Runway" — in which Brunsdon plays the Michael Kors designer judge role — Brunsdon was diagnosed with testicular cancer and took a month off.
"The last month has been very restful, I needed a good rest," said Brunsdon, who underwent surgery and has a positive prognosis.
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