DIOR’S TOKYO DIGS: Christian Dior has found its place in Tokyo: in the Ginza. The brand disclosed to WWD that a flagship will open in May at the corner of Harumi Street and West 5-Chome Street in Ginza, in front of the site where Gucci will open its flagship in 2005.

Dior’s building has six stories, including the basement, and occupies 16,340 square feet. The brand’s existing 3,500-square-foot, two-story shop on Namiki Dori Street will close. Merchandise will include some new categories, like children’s wear, as well as ready-to-wear and jewelry. Dior will open another shop in Omotesando Dec. 7. The new Ginza shop will generate sales of about $17 million, or 2 billion yen, converted at current exchange. The existing shop on Namiki Dori Street generates around $8.5 million. Dior will also open a shop in Osaka in late 2004.

Elsewhere in Ginza, Timberland is slated to open a flagship on Sept. 19. — Koji Hirano

STILL REELING FROM SARS:
The SARS outbreak in Hong Kong is over, but as last week’s big fashion event underscored, its impact is still being felt.

The spring edition of Hong Kong Fashion Week was the first big show held by the Trade Development Council since the World Health Organization declared Hong Kong SARS-free on June 23. There were more than 500 exhibitors at the show, 23 fewer than last year, with about 60 percent from Hong Kong and 40 percent from overseas, including exhibitors from China, India and Taiwan.

But overall attendance dropped by 10 percent to about 12,800 compared with 2002. The biggest decline was in international visitors, of which there were just under 4,800 — 18 percent fewer than the previous year.

The number of Chinese visitors surged, however, to about 2,700, a 29 percent jump from a year ago.

Hong Kong designer Arthur Lam said while there were a lot of visitors from China, they weren’t actually buying much.

“I think this time they were just looking. They came over mainly to see what’s going on.”

Lucia Chong, managing director of Neo-Fantastic Fashions, was upbeat about the show, although she did notice a drop-off in the number of buyers this year.“This show is such a great chance to meet buyers from all over the world,” she said.

The festivities kicked off with a fashion show at Government House, hosted by Betty Tung, wife of embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa. Designers who showed portions of their spring collections included Dorian Ho and Lulu Cheung.

The main message of the evening was that Hong Kong is back in business — but that’s a tough one to get out. In an effort to help ease SARS fears, visitors’ temperatures were checked at the entrances to the exhibition area.

Still, as Dannie Chiu, sales manager of the Trade Development Council, said, “It’s very hard to convince people we’re free of SARS.”

— David Hall

MITSUI EXPANDS PROGRAMS:
Mitsui & Co. has launched a new team specializing in brand marketing and licensing in an effort to increase its fashion apparel business.

The giant trading firm has set a new goal to double the scale of annual sales of its licensees to $2 billion, or 240 billion yen, converted at current exchange, within three years by expanding the scope of brands it handles from luxury brands at present to casualwear, lifestyle and other labels. Mitsui said it has structured a new “platform” of brand marketing after nearly two years of work on a long-term strategy to expand into the brand licensing business.

To execute the program, Mitsui established a new in-house investment unit that makes investments in brands, designers and other intellectual properties in fashion business.

“The world map of brand marketing is undergoing tremendous changes as the result of the rapid globalization that has been accelerating in the last few years,” a Mitsui executive noted.

The emergence of “megabrands” has intensified competition in many markets of the world, speeding a shakeout as well asreorganization of brands, Mitsui said, pointing out that the rise of China and other Asian countries as manufacturing centers is increasing production of branded merchandise in this region. This is removing the wall between directly imported merchandise and licensed production that previously existed, the firm noted. — Tsukasa Furukawa

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