LONDON — Nancy Gonzalez, the Colombian accessories brand that specializes in exotic skins, has opened a 700-square-foot space at Harrods next to brands including Céline, Fendi and Saint Laurent — and that’s just where Santiago Barberi Gonzalez wants to be.
“Harrods has understood that we are a fashion brand made out of exotic skins,” said Gonzalez, the brand’s president and creative director, as he paced around the shop floor, fine-tuning the position of a gold ombré crocodile bag, and peering at the workmanship on a vermilion one with a crocodile covered shoulder chain.
“We were the first people to treat precious skins as fashion: Today, we make 150 new styles per season, three times a year — for resort, spring and fall. We treat handbags like ready-to-wear. There are 30 new colors every season, new shapes and new finishes, too. There are very few core items. Our core program is decided by the stores, and the items are treated as reorders. We don’t have an ‘It’ bag,’” he said. “None of our designs have been produced that many times.”
Price points, too, are more in line with fashion brands than with specialist purveyors of exotic skins. The entry point for a Nancy Gonzalez crocodile clutch is $1,400, and prices rise to $3,000 for more intricate and larger styles. Handbags typically range from $3,000 to $5,000.
By comparison, an Ethan K Minaudière Crocodile L clutch costs $3,900, while a patent leather logo Saint Laurent one costs $995. Gonzalez said he expects sales to triple in the new space at Harrods, which is about twice the size of the brand’s former boutique on the lower ground floor.
Gonzalez said overall revenue growth has been about 10 to 15 percent per season, although he would not reveal specific figures. Technology is advancing, and the company is now laser-cutting precious skins and weaving them. For years, it has covered hardware, such as chain links, with crocodile skin.
Harrods is Nancy Gonzalez’s sole U.K. outlet, and the shop, which is located in the Egyptian Room, carries about 200 stockkeeping units. The space was created by Rawlins Design and by Gonzalez, and was inspired by Art Deco, Italian Futurism “and a twist of biomorphic baroque,” according to the company.
The central display is made from a series of interlocking circular pedestals in Brazilian rosewood with white glass, while other displays have rosewood bases and bronze and glass shelving. The art-loving Gonzalezes asked the sculptor Michele Oka Doner to hand-make a series of 24-karat gilded scrims inspired by natural textures such as coral, sea foam, honeycomb and crocodile skin.
The Egyptian Room is one of the ground and lower ground floor accessories halls to have undergone a major facelift over the past year, and others are still undergoing refurbishment. Helen David, Harrods’ fashion director of women’s wear, accessories, fine jewelry and children’s wear, said Nancy Gonzalez offers an “unparalleled” choice of colors and silhouettes in exotic skins.
Gonzalez said the exotic skins business overall has changed dramatically. “Fifteen years ago, precious skins came in brown, black, maybe kelly green and cognac — and it was grandma who had a bag,” he said, adding that demand has since exploded due to the evolution of the international luxury customer and the rise of the big fashion brands. “Skins are hard to get, and today you have to control your own supply. If you don’t own a tannery, you cannot do it.”
He pointed to Kering, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Hermès, all of which have acquired or taken stakes in tanneries. Nancy Gonzalez has controlled its supply chain for years through a network of tanneries and farms.
Next up is a Nancy Gonzalez e-commerce site. Gonzalez said he already has a big online business with Net-a-porter.com, neimanmarcus.com and saksfifthavenue.com. “I am obsessed with online, and we are working on our own site. It will be huge, international — and will hopefully open this year,” he said.
At the same time, Gonzalez said he is cleaning up his brick-and-mortar distribution network so as to focus on the most appropriate stores internationally.