By  on November 2, 2007

HONG KONG — Gela Nash-Taylor, co-founder and co-president of Juicy Couture, can hardly contain her excitement.

On a mini tour of Asia, Nash-Taylor not only is launching the brand's fragrance in the region (it will be exclusive to Hong Kong while regulatory hurdles are cleared in other cities) but also is cutting the ribbon on two new stores, one in Beijing and the other in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"I have no idea what to expect, I'm just excited to see everything — especially the Great Wall," said Nash-Taylor, who confirmed Juicy Couture has big plans for the region. "By the end of this year, we will have 63 stores in the U.S.," she explained, "and within 10 years, we'll have 47 in Asia."

The company, a division of Liz Claiborne Inc., is well on its way to reaching those goals. Juicy Couture already has four freestanding stores in Hong Kong, as well as a presence in Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols here. Next year will see freestanding stores in Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore and Macau — the latter slated for a spring debut at the Four Seasons Hotel, which is part of the Cotai Strip development. In China, Juicy Couture has stores in Beijing and Chengdu, and a new shop in Guangzhou.

The company's brand manager for Asia Pacific, Alison Whittle, said Shanghai is next on the Mainland China agenda. "We'll open Shanghai next year. It's such a good retail opportunity, we have to be there. The only reason we went to Beijing first was that the right location was available," she said, adding that Lane Crawford Joyce Group, which operates the stores in Asia, is looking at a space in Shanghai's West Gate shopping mall.

In Beijing, amid airport-closing pollution levels, Nash-Taylor welcomed guests to the opening of Juicy Couture's second freestanding store. The shop is located in the financial district's Shingkong development, where Lane Crawford opened its flagship the same weekend. "With Lane Crawford as an anchor, this is a good place for us to be," said Whittle.

While she would not divulge sales figures, Nash-Taylor said establishing business in China is more than a public relations exercise and window dressing. "This is a real investment and sales are real," she said. "That's what's great about Juicy — it's attainable and accessible. It's couture for the masses."The company's biggest store in the region, however, is in Kuala Lumpur. Spanning two levels over 3,500 square feet, the shop is the first in Malaysia to carry all of Juicy Couture's collections, including Juicy Couture, Couture Couture, Juicy Men, kids' and a full range of accessories. The store is located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur's luxury shopping district at Pavilion. It has been designed as a single informal space with most of the merchandise displayed on the walls. A long glass table, inspired by a girl's dressing table and featuring colorful Juicy graphics, serves as the centerpiece.

"We like to have different elements in each of our stores. We do have a global customer, but he or she wants to see something a little different everywhere they go. The idea of a cookie-cutter store is definitely over," said Nash-Taylor.

In the meantime, she is taking a bemused attitude to news reports from Austin, Tex., that a schoolgirl was asked to change clothing when she arrived at school wearing a Juicy Angel T-shirt. "I just can't relate to it. It's not like Austin is a hick town," said Nash-Taylor. "It's a sweet little logo. For them to get uptight about the word 'juicy' is odd because it's been around for a long time. And if you're really going to start taking words apart like that you can talk about Opium, Poison, you can go on and on. I don't take it too seriously, it's all good fun."

She takes a similar attitude toward counterfeiting. "There are people in the company who look after counterfeiting and copying, but Pam [Skaist-Levy, co-founder of Juicy Couture] and I have looked at it as flattery," said Nash-Taylor. "You can't get upset — it's just business."

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