By  on June 6, 2008

HONG KONG — Edgy Los Angeles brand Christian Audigier opened its first store here on Tuesday.

The shop will carry both the Christian Audigier and Ed Hardy labels. Nilesh Sajnani, director of Manira Retailing, which is distributing the brands in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Macau, said the 800-square-foot space at the IFC shopping mall in central Hong Kong will serve as the Christian Audigier flagship for Greater China.

"The location of the store turned out to be very good because next to us will be True Religion, with their first store in Hong Kong, plus Lucky and Juicy Couture are right there," Sajnani said.

The shop, which was designed in-house, will feature details such as black semigloss wood display units against white walls, lots of gold trim, a dramatic red chandelier and a wall covered in black wallpaper inlaid with gold.

"It's a grand look," Sajnani said. "I think we might have Champagne Fridays or Saturdays, so that anyone who comes in the store is given a glass of Champagne. And maybe we'll bring in a DJ on a Friday or Saturday afternoon — make things different for our customers."

The store will carry a comprehensive range of the tattoo-inspired Christian Audigier and Ed Hardy T-shirts worn by celebrities such as Madonna and Britney Spears, as well as jeans, trucker hats and accessories. Sajnani said he was considering whether to add footwear. The Crystal Rocks spin-off line, designed and named for Audigier's 16-year-old daughter, might arrive later.

Manira has also signed a deal to open a second Christian Audigier shop at Harbor City, the popular shopping mall in the tourist-filled Tsimshatsui area. That 400-square-foot unit is to open in September.

"It wasn't easy to get the space," Sajnani said. "It takes a lot of convincing because not only do you have to introduce a new brand, but in Hong Kong many people will say they have the license for a brand when they don't. The landlords make you prove it."

Sajnani projected sales at the IFC shop to reach about $385,000 in the first three months.

"It's perhaps not the best timing to open in June, but I think we're on the right track and I'm confident sales will be strong," he said, noting that Ed Hardy is already selling well in multibrand stores in Hong Kong, including Seibu and Pedder Red.Distribution might change as the stores begin operations.

"It's important how we handle this because we need to maintain some kind of exclusivity," Sajnani said.

He added that once the Christian Audigier brand is established, it is likely that Ed Hardy will be removed from the flagship to be sold through in-store shops, concessions and in multibrand stores.

"Right now, people in Hong Kong don't know Christina Audigier, but once it is known, the brand can stand alone," Sajnani said.

Meanwhile, plans are in place to open in Mainland China through a partnership with actress Carina Lau's retail company.

"We'll open first in Shanghai in the fall, then Beijing next year," said Sajnani, who is also completing details on a shop in Macau. "We have the space already, but you have to strike a balance between prestige and cost-effectiveness. It would be great to have a 2,200-square-foot store next to the Buddha Bar, but it's also expensive. I will probably take a smaller space at the Four Seasons."

That shop is likely to open in autumn. Sajnani is taking a wait-and-see approach to further expansion.

"I think we'll concentrate on these...first and take it from there," he said.

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