Leiber Brand Banks on International Appeal

Leiber is taking its particular brand of sparkle international.

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Leiber is taking its particular brand of sparkle international.

This story first appeared in the February 6, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 45-year-old American luxury accessories brand, known for its ornate Swarovski crystal-studded evening bags, has inked distribution agreements to open stores in India and the Middle East. The deals are part of a larger strategy to grow the Pegasus Capital Advisors-owned firm. Next steps include moving into Southeast Asia and Russia.

“We’ve been such a small player in an ocean of luxury,” said Leiber president and creative director Frank Zambrelli, who noted the firm has only six U.S. boutiques, two of which are outlet stores, and that there is a lot of growth opportunity in retail and wholesale segments.

There are also plans to open additional stores in major American cities. The brand has stores in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Costa Mesa, Calif.

In the Middle East, Leiber partnered with Al-Futtaim, a luxury goods distributor based in Dubai. A 1,000-square-foot store in Dubai’s recently extended shopping mall Wafi is planned for April. There are also plans to launch outposts in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and a second store in Dubai. The stores will average from 1,700 to 2,000 square feet. The average price point is $5,000.

“The Leiber customer commutes across the globe,” said Duncan Bradbury, business manager for Al-Futtaim, a 75-year-old firm that has retail partnerships with Ikea, Toys ‘R’ Us, Marks & Spencer and Raymond Weil.

The firm is seeking to expand its luxury profile and sees Leiber as the perfect fit due to its heightened brand awareness and product quality in categories such as crystal-studded evening bags, exotic-skin handbags, eyewear, fine jewelry, furs, footwear and fragrance. Footwear isn’t a prominent category for the brand, but it is looking to bolster the division and is in talks with a prominent footwear firm to do so.

The brand has also increased its exotic skin business of late. Fifty-five to 60 percent of sales are from its crystal pieces. Leiber’s recent collaborations with designers such as Andrew Gn, Rachel Zoe and Azzaro have introduced the brand to a wider audience. In August 2006, the company changed its brand name from Judith Leiber to Leiber to make its image younger and open it up to men’s.

“There’s an ever-growing demand for accessories,” said Duncan. “[The Middle Eastern] customer has always demanded the very exclusive and exquisite.”

Duncan added accessories are vital to local women who wear traditional Islamic garb such as the hijab and abaya.

In India, Leiber has partnered with Marigold Group, a luxury purveyor and operator of several stores and women’s fashion brands there. The first Leiber store will open in the spring, with a second to follow in Mumbai. Madan K. Assomull, chairman of Marigold, said selling luxury in India is specialized, so Leiber will offer salespeople to come to the home of a client. It will also host trunk shows in places where having a store isn’t an option.

“My mother and the women in my family have always owned Judith Leibers,” said Assomull. “It’s a tradition in my family and it’s a tradition in India.”

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