NEW YORK — Newly opened after an eight-month renovation, the 3,000-square-foot Bally flagship here is a symbol of the company's new direction. The collections are tightly edited, with a balance between classic and modern designs; the space is spare but not austere.
The store, at 628 Madison Avenue, is a prototype for future redesigns. Groupings of low white bouclé couches and leather coffee tables beckon as conversation areas. The furniture — along with brown glass wall panels, brown velvet rugs, vitrines and shelves of oak and walnut, and wood vases — create a warm, lounge-like environment. Sales at the Madison Avenue store are expected to increase 40 percent.
"We shrank down our collection," said Marco Franchini, chairman and chief executive officer of Bally. "Our margins have improved. We're selling a lot more at full price."
When he joined Bally in 2002, "the company was losing money because there was a lot of spending on image," said Franchini, who was then general manager of Gucci Europe. The brand's creative directors, he said, were more interested in promoting themselves than promoting the brand. One of the first things Franchini did was fire the creative directors and hire design teams. "Now we're ready to invest again in communications," he said.
Bally is focusing on three concepts: nature, craftsmanship and heritage. The brand, which is based in Caslano on Switzerland's Lake Lugano, has an affinity for nature and created the first shoes that were used to climb Mount Everest.
An example of the company's commitment to craftsmanship, Franchini said, is Bally's redesigned men's wingtip shoe, which requires 250 steps to make. There's a free repair service, which entitles owners to have the shoes refurbished once a year.
Although Franchini said, "We revamped a very dusty brand," he doesn't want to distance the company from its roots – Bally, after all, was the first luxury brand in the world when it was introduced in 1851 — hence the decision to include "Since 1851" in advertising and products. The phrase is a tag line for ads, appears on hardware for handbags and is embossed on the the innersoles of shoes. The original Bally family crest has been taken out of retirement and appears on tote bags.There are other links to the past. The Trainspotting group of handbags and shoes features leather and grosgrain striped ribbon, underscoring Bally's start as a ribbon company. Double D, a line of handbags, is considered a classic with its rounded hardware. These signature styles are punctuated by unusual pieces such as a black leather evening bag dotted with turquoise stones, $795, and a pair of boots covered in a patchwork of suede shapes and flowers, $1,235.
Franchini said the company's customer base is divided evenly between men and women. Over the years, as Bally has experienced ups and downs, the male clientele has been more supportive. "Bally has gone through so many faces in its life," he said. "Women are less loyal."
Ready-to-wear, which has the highest sell-through in the store, accounts for only about 10 percent of sales. Shoes represent 50 percent and accessories, 40 percent.
"We think of rtw as an accessory to the accessories," Franchini said. "We wanted to revamp our core business first. Once we become strong with our core products, we can do rtw in a big way.
"We have a very efficient machine," he said. "This will be a pivotal year where we feel confident to expand and communicate the image of our product. We have a strong opportunity in our three traditional categories: footwear, accessories and rtw."
To celebrate the reopening, Bally next month is planning a retrospective of 100 shoes taken from its archives. In addition, four archival shoe designs from the Thirties and Fifties will be reproduced in limited editions, signed and numbered like lithographs. All have handmade details such as hand-knitted paillettes, leather piping, perforated leather and other stitching techniques.
Bally, which broke even in 2004 after losing money for 15 years, finally has the luxury to invest in its business. Global sales increased between 15 and 20 percent in 2005, from 345 million euros to 360 million euros, or $419 million to $437 million at current exchange, and a similar target is set for 2006. The improvement hasn't escaped the notice of Texas Pacific Group, which purchased Bally in 1999 and supports the store openings, renovations and an advertising budget for 2006 that's four times last year's.Bally opened stores in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and renovated a unit in Costa Mesa, Calif., last year. A unit in Ala Moana Center in Honolulu is opening at the end of the month. Stores are slated to open this year in Boston, Waikiki and Las Vegas, where a second unit will bow at the Fashion Show Mall. Still on the agenda: finding locations in Miami, San Francisco and Chicago.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye