By  on November 3, 2010

Douglas Hannant has kept the company of his customers, and now that loyalty has reaped opportunity.

The designer is launching a fragrance and lingerie and gearing up for a major push in China that will include opening stores, according to his business partner, Frederick Anderson. Eighteen months ago, Hannant unveiled a bridal collection and has since picked up accounts in Japan and Shanghai as well as closer to home. The company, which has sales of less than $10 million, has also been busy building sales in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and other locales for the signature ready-to-wear collection.

In an industry where more is often the end game, Hannant has preferred to take measured steps. From the start 13 years ago, he borrowed a page from Bill Blass in that he was intent on not only building a business but “cultivating a client base,” Anderson said. “We didn’t want to be the next big thing. We’re a niche business — we’re not expecting to be more than $20 million.”

Tonight at the Plaza Hotel — where Hannant has a freestanding store — the designer will unveil his new black-bottle fragrance, Douglas Hannant de Robert Piguet. Like many of his new pursuits, this one stemmed from Robert Piguet Parfums approaching the designer about a potential collaboration. Created by perfumer Aurélien Guichard of Givaudan, each bottle is hand poured, labeled and individually sealed with silver thread as a nod to Hannant’s design sensibility. It will arrive in stores in February, but Neiman Marcus has 150 limited edition bottles that will retail for $350 at a Jan. 27 charity event and weekend trunk show in Palm Beach.

Doing select charity events and client dinners has always been part of the bones of the company. “Everyone is talking about social marketing. To me, that is social marketing,” Anderson said.

This is the first designer fragrance for Piguet Parfums and its first new scent since the Sixties. Piguet’s Parisian couture house trained such greats as Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, and Hubert de Givenchy, a side note that appealed to Anderson. The fragrance should generate between $3 and $5 million within the next two years and $5 to $10 million within the next 10 years.

Years ago, Hannant and Anderson befriended Geoffrey Beene after receiving a fan letter from him. The late designer was another proponent of slow-and-steady-wins-the-race in terms of building a business, Anderson said. Hannant has also gleaned valuable lessons from other influential fashion executives he has worked with, such as Dawn Mello, who, during her Bergdorf Goodman days, insisted designers spend time on the sales floor getting to know their customers and, more important, their needs. “We learned they’re not just buying a dress — they’re buying everything you’re about,” Anderson said.

Having inked a licensing deal with Sensual Lingerie Inc., Hannant will debut a lingerie collection in January. The venture made sense given his bridal following and detail-minded designs, Anderson said. It will consist of three separate collections — essentials, bridal and signature.

Through a franchising deal with the FandT group, the company is branching out and will open its first franchised store in China in July, with two more to follow in 2012. The aim is to have 10 stores by the end of 2013 in cities including Hangzhou, Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai. Hannant plans to have 30 boutiques in China within five years as a means of establishing the designer as a major force. To further that effort, FandT group is cooking up an advertising and public relations initiative to help Chinese consumers become more familiar with the designer.

Back on the home front, Douglas Hannant has doubled the size of its sample room to keep up with increased demand. A Feb. 10 runway show is planned at interior decorator Geoffrey Bradfield’s Upper East Side space. “It’s very uptown, but we are uptown — we don’t apologize,” he said.

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