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McCartney Looks Ahead

During an interview a week after the fashion-hungry hordes descended on the McCartney racks at H&M, Bizzarri readily admitted that many of those shoppers can't afford signature Stella McCartney.

LONDON — Her tulip dresses and tuxedo coats flew off H&M’s racks, and her trenches and blouses for the Swedish chain have been commanding more than double their original prices on eBay.

But Stella McCartney and her team aren’t planning any encore performances for the store. They’re moving on and focusing on building her footwear and accessories business.

“The line for H&M was an exercise in branding. There is such an awareness out there of Stella’s name, but until now, I don’t know how many people could actually link Stella’s name to a product,” said Marco Bizzarri, chief executive officer of Stella McCartney.

“Plus, it’s not exactly easy to find our products: We have three stand-alone stores and 200 wholesale accounts. We simply wanted a wider audience to understand the brand, to link the name to Stella’s design and quality,” he added.

During an interview a week after the fashion-hungry hordes descended on the McCartney racks at H&M, Bizzarri readily admitted that many of those shoppers can’t afford signature Stella McCartney.

“At the very least, we’ve educated consumers — and piqued their curiosity — about Stella’s world. Those same women who bought from H&M may well walk into Stella’s store looking for the fragrance, a T-shirt, a pair of jeans or the Adidas trainers.”

Just like French couture houses, which have traditionally relied on fragrances, scarves and small accessories to promote their brands, so a new generation of designers is relying on mass market retail to increase awareness and drive the business.

Karl Lagerfeld created a successful line for H&M last year, and sold his business to Tommy Hilfiger on the back of it, while McCartney and Alexander McQueen have inked deals with Adidas and Puma, respectively.

On Friday, the London-based luxury jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge will unveil a 40-piece collection of costume jewelry for H&M. The line will be sold in 400 stores in 21 countries.

H&M’s marketing director, Jörgen Andersson, called the Stella campaign a huge success, on par with the Lagerfeld line last year. While inventory remains in some countries, Andersson said volumes would be consolidated and sent to select locations in the U.K., France and Sweden, where demand was “extraordinary.”

This story first appeared in the November 21, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But it’s already time to move on. McCartney and her team are working on their next big project: a broad-based accessories line.

“We plan to show our first collection of bags and shoes to the trade in January. There is a huge opportunity for growth here,” said Bizzarri, who will be building on an existing accessories line.

His background should serve him well. The Italian-born Bizzarri, 43, who joined McCartney’s house last year, held posts as general manager at Marithe + François Girbaud in Paris, and general manager at Mandarina Duck, an accessories firm famous for its cotton and rubber bags.

“Obviously, at McCartney we’re not working with leather, and non-leather accessories is a whole different business. It’s a more difficult one, for sure, but we think we’re in a unique position, and we’re ready to exploit our strengths,” he said.

The company recently hired Veronica Bertozzi as worldwide sales director. She replaced Bizzarri, who had been interim sales director. Bertozzi was sales director of Iris, the Milan-based shoe licensee for labels including Chloé and Marc Jacobs.

Caterina Seghezzi was named product development manager for Stella McCartney, a new post. She was formerly fashion accessories coordinator for Dolce & Gabbana, and also had worked at Mandarina Duck.

The shoes and bags will be produced in-house. Bizzarri said accessories account for about 16 percent of annual volume. “But we can get that figure to 30 percent very quickly — in less than three years.”

The company’s sales are expected to be in excess of 30 million euros, or $35 million, for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2005. The firm plans to release figures by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Bizzarri ruled out the launch of a secondary Stella McCartney collection. As reported, Alexander McQueen, McCartney’s sister company at Gucci Group, has launched a secondary line known as McQ — Alexander McQueen that will bow for fall 2006. “We don’t need to do a second line right now. We want to maintain the core collection. We have a fragrance and the partnership with Adidas. The priority right now is accessories,” he said. “There’s always the possibility of collaborating with other industry leaders who have particular skills and creativity, like Adidas and H&M.”

H&M’s Andersson said more designer collaborations were likely if the retailer finds a “relevant” partner to work with. He said the key is finding a designer who wants his or her work to reach a large number of people via affordable pricing and its network of 1,160 stores.

James McArthur, executive vice president of Gucci Group, said McCartney’s line for H&M has been a boon for the brand — and the business. “It’s all part of the block and tackle of building the business and [name],” he said.

As reported, Gucci has encouraged its smaller brands, including McQueen and McCartney, to grow via deals with outside firms. Gucci wants both those brands to be profitable by 2007.

“Stella is absolutely on the profitability track,” McArthur said. “This company is operating on so many different levels. The world of Stella is taking shape.”