By  on January 21, 2005

JOHANNESBURG — With a buoyant retail sector reporting impressive sales last year — backed up by a strong currency, low interest rates and unabated consumer spending — it comes as no surprise that more and more international brands are rushing to establish a presence in South Africa.

D&G, the secondary line of Dolce & Gabbana, opened its Johannesburg store in the posh Sandton City mall late last year, a few months after opening a freestanding boutique in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.

The D&G shops are owned and operated by the Diesel Group, which in South Africa represents such hip, upmarket brands as Diesel Jeans, DSquared and New York Industrie (Diesel backs the DSquared line and used to own New York Industrie). “Diesel has been in South Africa for the past 12 years,” said Nadine Le Roux, the company’s group marketing manager.

Having successfully grown the Diesel brand in Johannesburg, the group hopes to do the same with D&G. “We have been selling D&G for some time now,” Le Roux explained, “not in a separate store, but in our Diesel Style Lab store. We felt that the time was right for D&G to stand on its own.”

Le Roux would not disclose sales figures, instead saying that “it would take a few seasons to grow the D&G brand, but it is doing well. Our customers range from teenagers to people in their 60s, but our core market is more accurately the 18 to 45 age group.”

Comprising about 1,000 square feet, the narrow, almost all white space — the sleek sobriety is broken by bright red shelving and one wall dotted with black — carries both the women’s and men’s lines. As South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, however, the seasons are reversed, and D&G currently stocks the spring-summer 2004 collection. This means the fashions the store carries are a season behind.

The irony may be lost on South African shoppers, who are considered to be more brand-obsessed than fashion-conscious, but it is not lost on Le Roux.  D&G positions itself as an up-to-the-minute, edgy designer label; Le Roux acknowledges that selling last season’s fashions at this year’s prices is something of a problem. She said she had every intention of synchronizing the collections to address this situation. “We are definitely planning to get on line with Europe,” she stated. Prices, she claimed, are more or less on a par with Europe. A pair of distressed jeans, for instance, are priced at 1,800 rand, or $360 at current exchange.The D&G boutique also carries the John Richmond line; starting next season, D&G will be combined with DSquared in the same space. “We find that the two brands work well together,” said Le Roux. “They complement each other well.”

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