By and  on June 11, 2007

MILAN — Tom Ford doesn't do small.

Two months after the debut of his high-end men's line and stand-alone flagship in Manhattan, the entrepreneurial designer is ready to take his brand global.

Ford and his business partner, Domenico De Sole, said last week that they have inked a series of strategic agreements with both franchise and wholesale partners that will allow the duo to expand the Tom Ford brand in key cities starting in the spring. The expansion plan confirms a story in last week's WWD.

Maintaining its original mandate, the Tom Ford men's line will retail exclusively in the Madison Avenue boutique for the first year. Starting next spring, the designer label will embark on a focused rollout in the U.S. and abroad through a multitiered plan that calls for both franchised and directly operated stores as well as exclusive shop-in-shops.

The list of partners includes Lane Crawford Joyce Group for Asia, Villa Moda and UAE Trading in the Middle East, Mercury in Russia, Harrods in London and the Neiman Marcus Group in the U.S. Other partners include Trois Pommes in Switzerland and Daslu in Brazil.

"This is a great day for us as we have now laid the foundation necessary to become a true global luxury brand," said Ford, president and chief executive officer. "The plan will allow us the platform needed to reach and service our customers worldwide."

Set within a 10-year time frame, the plan when completed will create 100 freestanding Tom Ford stores and many shop-in-shops. A significant amount of the global distribution will begin next year with the opening of a directly operated flagship in Milan, as well as franchised stores in Moscow; Zurich; Saint Moritz, Switzerland; Hong Kong; Beijing; Kuwait; Dubai, and Qatar.

In the U.S., Ford's brand of fashionable, luxury tailored clothing and indulgent accoutrements like velvet embroidered slippers will be available in a shop-in-shop in Bergdorf Goodman as well as select Neiman Marcus stores starting in the spring.

Senior Bergdorf brass, including ceo Jim Gold, were among the first retailers invited to view the collection and take in the concept when Ford opened the doors to his two-level New York store in April.At the time, Tommy Fazio, men's fashion director at Bergdorf's, called the collection "the best execution...of mixing old-world haberdashery with a modernistic approach."

Outside the U.S., shop-in-shops are planned for Harrods in London, Daslu in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and multiple units in Joyce stores in Tokyo and Osaka.

"We will remain in much tighter distribution than our competitors and will place a priority on delivering the highest-quality product and the greatest standard of service," Ford said.

Following the Milan store, directly operated units will open in London (where Ford has his design studio), Los Angeles and Hawaii over the next three years.

The London flagship is slated for a 2009 opening, as are 11 franchised shops in various locations, including Shanghai and Beijing.

The following year Ford will inaugurate the stores in Los Angeles and Hawaii along with 15 franchised shops throughout Asia, including a flagship in Tokyo.

A cornerstone of the expansion plan is the deal with the Lane Crawford Joyce Group. Over the next 10 years, a minimum of 87 franchised Tom Ford stores will open throughout Asia in partnership with the group, including, but not limited to, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia.

"You can still guarantee top quality and exclusivity because if you consider the amount of stores that Chanel and Gucci have in Asia, it's much higher," Ford said. "The way people shop in Beijing, for example, is different because they have shopping hubs that are in towers mixed with hotels and offices that are like mini cities, so you need more stores."

As for the design of the stores and the shop-in-shops, Ford said the idea isn't to create a cookie-cutter look that mimics the Madison Avenue flagship. "That store has a certain 1930s inspiration because the building is from that period, but the idea is to mix elements and products that make each store more individualized," he said. "For example, we're developing a special private-blend fragrance for the Moscow store and we'll have pieces in the Saint Moritz store that make it obvious you're in Saint Moritz. In Kuwait City, we will have traditional Arabian dresses and sandals."In some of the smaller venues, we will concentrate more on the footwear [so far, the bestselling category], fragrances, shirts and ties, jewelry and even diamond stud cuffs."

Tom Ford chairman De Sole added, "We have partnered with the finest companies internationally...giving us the necessary competitive advantage as we expand our men's wear business globally."

The company declined to give a sales forecast but underscored its commitment to becoming a true global luxury player.

As for that perennial question — whether he will add women's wear — Ford said: "Right now, I'm concentrating on men's wear because I feel I'm making a new statement. If and when I find the same statement for women, I'll think about it. Right now, I have several years of work with the men's alone because we've done a lot, but there's still a lot to be done.

"I do everything myself because the line and the stores bear my name. I check out every single store location and [put] a lot of my personal style in what I do. I'm creating a corporate culture that way."

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