LONDON — Bally’s new chief executive officer Frédéric de Narpplans to “electrify” the 163-year-old Swiss brand and is aiming to morethan double sales over the next five to seven years.
De Narp toldWWD that restoring the brand to its roots in footwear and accessories,and a renewed emphasis on the women’s offer, were major priorities.Although ready-to-wear remains in the mix, it will play a smaller rolein de Narp’s Bally.
The former Harry Winston executive also plansto put some fizz back into the brand, tapping high-profile creativessuch as Sir David Chipperfield and Fabien Baron, and expanding into thevery high end of the market using “extravagant and exotic skins.”
“Wewant to bring back the dream, and make Bally exciting and glamorous as abrand,” said de Narp, who took up his post in November, and is basedbetween London and Bally’s headquarters in Caslano, Switzerland, nearLake Lugano. “We are the only existing Swiss luxury brand for shoes and accessories that doesn’t also make watches and there is so much potential.”
He said he wants to make clear to the worldwhat Bally stands for: “authenticity, quality, craftsmanship and apioneering spirit.” He said that he was struck by the fact that NASAcalled on the Swiss brand to help it create the soles on the boots thatNeil Armstrong would use to take his first step on the moon.
Asfor his own aspirations, de Narp said he’s aiming to hit a $1 billionsales target by 2021. Although the company would not reveal its revenuefigures, industry sources said Bally’s annual turnover is upward of 400million Swiss francs, or $440 million at current exchange.
DeNarp has hired the British architect Chipperfield — who has designedretail spaces for names ranging from Issey Miyake and Kenzo to Valentino— to create the new generation of Bally concept stores, with the firstflagship set to open on Bond Street in London in September.
DeNarp said the new, 4,320-square-foot store will span three floors andoffer a “360-degree customer experience, with the clients at the centerof retail,” a made-to-order service, and “shoemaking and leatheraccessories at its core.” A revamped online platform will launch at thesame time as the new store.
Although no other stores are in thepipeline, de Narp said he foresees the opening of a minimum of 12flagships in major cities within the next five years. Bally has 158directly operated stand-alone stores, 45 franchises, 23 outlets and 86duty-free units.
De Narp has also called on Baron, with whom heworked while president and ceo of Harry Winston Inc., to oversee thefirst major ad campaign of his tenure, which will be for fall 2014.
Withregard to the product, de Narp said that men’s merchandise at this timegenerates about 70 percent of sales, with women’s making up the rest.His plan is for men’s and women’s each to generate half of the business.
Hesaid that while Bally has traditionally been focused on women’s shoes,for the past 10 years it’s been perceived more as a men’s brand than awomen’s one.
“It’s very important for me to focus on women’s now,and we’ll be adding glamour, color, excitement and new lines. We needto put a fire under the women’s business,” he said, adding that shoes,bags and accessories will play a big part in Bally’s new offer, whichwill be broader than ever.
“I want more verticalized pricing,with some more commercial product — shoes at 300 euros [or $408],” deNarp said. “I don’t mind stretching Bally and making it a true, completeluxury brand.” To wit, he also plans to build up the high-endcollection, offering “extreme craftsmanship and exotic skins.
“Bally customers are expecting the brand to deliver at a high level,” he said.
Froma merchandise standpoint, he said he’d like to see footwear making up50 percent of sales, accessories 35 percent and rtw 15 percent, withBally as the number-one market leader in the high-end men’s segment.
Withregard to rtw, Bally is working with outside collaborators. As reportedin November, the hot Paris-based designer Alexandre Mattiussi iscreating a capsule range of men’s and women’s rtw for fall, with theformer launching during Milan men’s shows on Sunday and the lattershowing in Italy in February.
De Narp said that Mattiussi iscommitted to Bally for two seasons, after which he will take a view onthe future of the rtw business. “It’s essential for us to carryready-to-wear,” he said. “It tells the story of the brand and it speaksto the lifestyle of the customer.” He said the men’s collection will be a“timeless, essential, everyday wardrobe.”
The executive alsoconfirmed that Manuel Frei, a former editor of German GQ who was namedcreative head of Bally in 2012 with a mandate to look for new designtalent and help to clarify the DNA of the brand, has left the company.
DeNarp said that his focus going forward will be on building andcultivating an in-house team of design talent that will work closelywith the brand’s craftsmen. He will decide whether or not to name acreative director at a future date.
On a management level, deNarp has named Brice Baudoin president of Asia-Pacific. He has worked inAsia for companies including Richemont, Louis Vuitton, Prada andChristian Dior. De Narp has also hired Marco Comazzi, a former HarryWinston colleague, as director of sales in Europe, Middle East andAfrica and international sales operations.
De Narp filled the jobleft vacant by Berndt Hauptkorn at the end of 2011. Reinhard Mieck, ceoof Bally’s parent Labelux, had been temporarily filling the post.
Ballyis owned by Labelux, which in turn is owned by Joh. A. Benckiser SE, afamily-controlled financial holding company. Labelux purchased Bally inApril 2008 from the private investment fund TPG Capital.
Beforejoining Winston, the Brittany, France-born de Narp was president and ceoof Cartier North America and brought much attention to that brand withthe successful push of the Love campaign of jewelry and watches, splashycelebrity-focused events and the rare U.S. launch of a high jewelrycollection.
He began his run at Cartier more than two decades agoin Japan, and worked in the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned firm’ssatellite offices throughout Tokyo, Switzerland, Italy and Greecebefore arriving in the U.S.
De Narp said the hard and soft luxurybusinesses are surprisingly similar, and he would be leveraging many ofthe relationships at Bally that he has built up in the luxury jewelryarena. It’s the differences between the two businesses that arestimulating for him.
“What’s exciting about Bally is that you arepressed each season to be more current, fresh, new and vibrant,” deNarp said. “And it doesn’t take four years to develop a new product likeit would for a complicated timepiece.”
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