TOKYO — Diane von Furstenberg has just opened her second freestanding store in Japan and she’s already plotting her return trip.
“It’s definitely my goal to spend a lot of time here and to really develop the Japanese market. I feel very good about the Japanese customers,” von Furstenberg told WWD. “I get a very good reaction from them, so I think there’s a lot for me to do here.”
Von Furstenberg described the new store as her new home base in a country she has been visiting for 30 years. “It feels very established,” she said, clad in a black-and-white print dress and short, fitted coat, sitting in a private room of the Grand Hyatt’s French Kitchen restaurant.
The flagship, located in the trendy Roppongi neighborhood next to Max Mara and across the street from Escada, features a dramatic stairwell adorned with a large blue replica of an Eighties Andy Warhol portrait of the designer. The 1,272-square-foot store, adorned with Swarovski crystal accents and pink ottomans, opened earlier this month.
Von Furstenberg declined to reveal the size of her business here, but offered that it’s “growing very organically and very nicely” and that she’s “extremely” happy with her local distribution partner Sanei International, a major player that distributes a host of labels including Kate Spade, the former occupant of the Roppongi space. The new von Furstenberg store rounds out an existing network of another flagship in the Aoyama district and eight shop-in-shops in department stores including Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya.
Von Furstenberg, who later jetted off to Kyoto for a weekend of cultural pursuits with husband Barry Diller, is the latest addition to a growing list of designers and fashion brands that have recently opened new stores or are plotting new locations despite Japan’s sluggish economy and the worldwide financial crisis. But von Furstenberg is quick to differentiate herself from the pack, stating she’s focused on creating desirable yet reasonably priced products that fit into real women’s lifestyles.
“I feel like a lot of people come to the Japanese market selling just the word luxury…which is very flat and one dimensional and I feel like my brand is much more dimensional than that,” she said, noting the universal appeal of her clothes to several generations of women around the world.
Before hosting a party to fete the new store Thursday evening, von Furstenberg gave a guest lecture to students at Bunka Women’s University. The Belgian-born designer said she feels an especially close connection with Japanese women.
“I feel like every time I come here they, I feel like they know me better,” she said. “Japanese women are very much a combination of being very traditionally feminine and at the same time being really strong and powerful actually. I kind of like that twist and I feel like I can talk to them with words, but I can talk to them with my clothes in a way that really can be important here.”
Speaking of important issues, von Furstenberg has another one on her mind and her lapel in the form of a Barack Obama button. “I’m praying,” she said, noting that she’s already sent in her absentee ballot since she’ll be traveling election day.
“I really feel like if Obama wins I will be very proud to have become American. I think that it will have meant that the country got very engaged and I think that when people get engaged they can make anything happen,” she said. “There’s no one who’s more resilient than the American people.”
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“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
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