By  on April 2, 2007

HONG KONG — Hogan opened its second store here with a fashionista-studded party at the Star Ferry that featured an appearance by "Hannibal Rising" star Gaspard Ulliel. But the real news is the brand's sleek boutique and what it represents.

Located in Tsimshatsui's bustling Harbour City mall, the 950-square-foot shop carries both men's and women's footwear and features the brand's iconic decor, comprising red leather walls and banquettes, polished steel and glass shelves and stitched leather "frames" around built-in display boxes. Its debut comes three years after the first Hogan store opened at Pacific Place on Hong Kong Island.

"We decided to open the second store because the first store is doing very well and has been since its second year of operation," said Tod's SpA chief executive officer Stefano Sincini. He said it was difficult to market the brand when it first launched 20 years ago, but the world is catching up to Hogan's relaxed style. "The world is becoming more casual, we dress less formally at work. We are evolving into a different lifestyle and Hogan is perfect for it," said Sincini.

But Hogan is only one part of Tod's Group's expanding presence in Asia. The company — which owns luxury brands Tod's, Hogan, Fay and Roger Vivier — now has more than 50 stores in the region, not including Japan, where there are another 20-plus. "We are growing, Asia is a strategic market for us, even though we arrived late compared to others," said Sincini. Tod's sales in Asia were up 25.3 percent last year to 88 million euros, or $116.2 million, from 70.3 million euros, or $92.8 million, in 2005. (Fig­ures include sales in the Middle East.)

Sincini spent part of the week before his arrival in Hong Kong investigating potential markets for Hogan, including a stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "We are studying the markets," said Sincini, who explained the company likes to have a strong understanding of a marketplace before expansion. While Tod's is available in most of Asia's major markets, most often via franchise — as it is in Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and China — the other brands are not. (In Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, Tod's stores are directly owned.)"We are very cautious with the development of our brands. We'll open stores with Tod's, but not until we have the right location. We want the right management, the right mall and the right brand mix," he said.

As for China, Sincini said the potential there is great, but the company is not quite ready to make a big move on its own. "Maybe we will go into China, but right now we are happy to wholesale. [Hogan is] in Shanghai in On Pedder [the multibrand store operated by Pedder Group] and the results have been very good, but we won't open a store in China before 2008," he said.

Sincini said growth for each brand will come from two major sources — expanding product categories and opening stores. In terms of the first, Sincini pointed to Hogan, which is best known for its Interactive sneaker, but has begun to add sandals, mules and some high heels. This fall, the first two Hogan apparel items will be launched: the Kerouac jacket for men and the Rock jacket for women. The leather jackets, along with a capsule collection of luggage, shoes and bags, were inspired by Jack Kerouac's Sixties classic "On the Road," said Sincini.

Although Sincini declined to estimate sales for the coming year or for the new Hogan shop in Hong Kong, he did grant that so far this year, things are going well. "We work every year to do better. The beginning of the year has been promising, but the market is not easy to predict at this moment. Still, we are quite optimistic," he said.

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