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MILAN — Tory Burch’s new Milan showroom represents her ambitions in Italy.
This story first appeared in the March 27, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer unveiled the 6,480-square-foot space with a cocktail Monday. “I wanted to make a statement: I’m committed to Italy and Milan and to building business here,” Burch told WWD.
Sitting in the luminous space, peppered with Chinese ceramic vases and decorated in the brand’s staple lacquered orange doors, orange and green velvet curtains and golden bronze chandeliers, Burch explained how the venue matches her brand and reflects her own style. Positioned a few steps away from luxury shopping street Via Spiga, the showroom is located in an old townhouse, overlooking a garden courtyard. “The aesthetics work with who we are,” said Burch, wearing a light caramel and cream pantsuit over a colorful striped top that fit with the balmy Milanese spring day. The space replaces a smaller showroom opened in Milan in 2008. Burch’s first step in Europe was through Harvey Nichols in London in 2007.
Despite Europe’s economic doldrums, Burch said the company’s revenues in the region rose 50 percent last year and are expected to increase another 40 percent in 2012. The area accounts for 10 percent of total sales and Burch said she is “looking at growing it more.” The designer declined to provide global revenues.
Burch is exploring real estate properties in Milan, in the golden shopping triangle, to open a boutique, as well as in Paris and Munich. “We have grown fast but through a thoughtful and careful strategy. We need to find the right location, the right rent — we are a patient company,” she explained.
Other possible retail destinations are French or Italian resorts, such as Saint-Tropez, Capri, Porto Cervo and Forte dei Marmi; Spain, and Amsterdam.
Burch trumpeted the performance of the London and Rome boutiques, on New Bond Street and Via del Babuino, respectively, which opened between the end of 2010 and early 2011. “London is an incredible market, and Rome is doing very well; it’s an exciting store on a great street in an ancient building — and there’s a modern touch with the Donald Judd sculpture,” said the designer.
She also noted increased awareness in Italy, “due all to word of mouth.” There are 75 specialty stores in Italy that carry the brand. Burch also remarked on the performance of her accessories division, which is “doing really well here. Italy is responding well to bags, for example.”
The designer is thinking of expanding the brand’s e-commerce business internationally. Currently only available in the U.S., there are plans to sell online in Italy and other countries in the second or third quarter of the year.
Despite the “worrisome economy everywhere,” Burch has several franchise openings in the pipeline in 2012. In the Middle East, with partner Chalhoub Group, stores are expected to open in Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain, in addition to six other doors by the end of 2013 and, with Aishti, a unit is slated to be unveiled in Lebanon. With Beymen and Lemonis, stores will open in Turkey and Greece, respectively.
The designer said she is “looking at” South America, with stores possible in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, and Asia, with the expansion of a Beijing store next month and a unit in Hong Kong. There are 200 specialty stores that carry the brand in Europe and 1,000 globally.
Although she expressed some “trepidation,” Burch was positive about 2012. “You never know what’s going to happen, but we expect sales to grow between 35 and 40 percent in the year.”
The brand’s first perfume, under a licensing agreement with Estée Lauder, will be launched in 16 months, together “with a capsule beauty collection,” said Burch. Home and sports collections for tennis, golf and yoga, for example, and a line of watches are on the designer’s wish list for the future.
As for that oft-mooted initial public offering, Burch stressed she’s resisting the idea for now.
“There are no plans for [a public listing]. Our company is still very young,” she said.