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A&G Plans Proceed Undeterred

LONDON — Times may be tough for luxury, but A&G Group continues to insist it’s weathering the storm. <br><br>In an exclusive interview with WWD Thursday, Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive of A&G Group, took pains to emphasize that the...

LONDON — Times may be tough for luxury, but A&G Group continues to insist it’s weathering the storm.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In an exclusive interview with WWD Thursday, Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive of A&G Group, took pains to emphasize that the relaunches of its Asprey and Garrard brands are on track.

“Despite all of the problems happening in the market right now, our project is going ahead,” he said over tea at the Garrard store on Albemarle Street. “True, the current market is not helping us, but this is a complex, long-term project, and we have made no changes to our original plans.”

Brozzetti said he wanted to clarify A&G’s current plans in light of recent reports that the opening of Asprey’s 20,000-square-foot store on Bond Street in London, scheduled for November, had been postponed until spring 2004. As reported, Asprey was forced to push back the opening because of complications with building laws. The new Asprey store will be made up of seven listed buildings, most of which were built in the 16th century.

“It’s not an ideal situation, but we have to live with it,” he said. Brozzetti said A&G is spending a total of $80 million on refurbishing and expanding Asprey’s London and New York units. The 20,000-square-foot New York store, located at Trump Tower, will make its debut on time in November.

Both have been designed by Norman Foster and decorated by David Mlinaric.

In a separate interview Thursday, Lawrence Stroll, who together with Silas Chou is piloting the relaunch of the Asprey and Garrard brands, said he was “disappointed” that both stores could not open simultaneously, as planned. “But that’s been my only surprise — and disappointment — so far,” he insisted during an interview at the A&G headquarters here.

As reported, A&G Group Ltd. registered consolidated revenues of more than $54 million in the fiscal year ending March 2002.

Asked why he chose this particular moment to give an update on the group’s plans, Brozzetti said: “It takes time to build luxury houses, and I don’t think anyone else is making the sort of investment we are.”

Brozzetti added that, in September, Asprey’s 15 product lines — which include jewelry, leather goods, silk, china and ready-to-wear — would be presented to clients and press during London Fashion Week. He added that the first Asprey watch would be launched in-store in May.

As a result, Asprey’s temporary store near its flagship on Bond Street, which is currently 2,000 square feet, will this summer be expanded to 6,000 square feet to accommodate the new product lines.

The goal of Stroll and Chou from the beginning has been to turn Asprey into a major luxury brand to rival Cartier, Tiffany and Bulgari. As reported, the brand plans to roll out more than 10 units over the next five years and have a total of 40 stores by 2011.

Brozzetti confirmed that the brand’s 40-member design team —which features lead designers Hussein Chalayan, Thierry de Baschmakoff and Alessandra Gradi — was still in place.

However, he declined to comment on rumors in New York that Edgar Bronfman, who holds a 40 percent stake in A&G and is a co-chairman of the group, was in London lobbying Gwyneth Paltrow to be the face of the brand. An Asprey spokeswoman in New York also declined comment on the rumor.

As for Garrard, which unveiled its first unit on Albemarle Street last September, Brozzetti said in May the brand would open a suite at 720 Fifth Avenue, across the street from the new Asprey unit. Garrard will sell its jewels by appointment only at the suite until the as yet to be determined opening of its first New York store.