The brand, which has already rolled out versions of private jets, yachts and sports cars, is moving into yet another facet of luxury transportation: helicopters.
Versace just inked a deal with the Italian group Agusta Westland to collaborate on the design and manufacturing of made-to-order Versace branded helicopters. A prototype will be unveiled here during the furniture and design fair Salone del Mobile in April.
“We want to associate our name with excellence,” Versace chief executive officer Giancarlo Di Risio told WWD. Drawing upon the spirit of founder Gianni Versace’s bon vivant lifestyle, the company is looking to link itself with exclusive, limited-edition products rather than push volume, he explained. “Luxury is not about 200 euro [$260] handbags,” he said.
Agusta Westland will pay Versace to furnish each helicopter ordered, a Versace spokesman said. Agusta makes choppers for a variety of outlets, military and civilian, including the NYPD and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The agreement mirrors that of Versace’s deals with Techniques d’Avant Gard to design and personalize private jets and with Lamborghini for cars. The super rich can also approach Versace to personalize their yachts. All of these products share similar design characteristics like white leather interiors and Versace’s hallmark frieze motif trim.
“People who have money are increasingly seeking out more exclusive things,” Di Risio said. Versace and Agusta declined to disclose a minimum price tag for the helicopters. “It costs so much that we are not even saying how much,” Di Risio said.
Di Risio said two customers, one from the United States and another from Hong Kong, have already ordered Versace private jets, while an Irish national has placed an order for a customized yacht. The executive boasted that 20 of the limited edition Versace Lamborghinis were sold in a week, more than half of them to Americans. The cars fetched upwards of 500,000 euros, or about $660,000 at current exchange rates.
Versace is due to release its full-year 2006 numbers in March and Di Risio said sales will be higher than originally expected.
He reiterated the company is in good financial health and on track for a possible stock market listing, should owners Allegra Versace Beck, Santo Versace and Beck’s mother Donatella Versace decide to pursue that route. Meanwhile, Versace is preparing to launch a new women’s fragrance this spring and a men’s version early next year. The company is also planning an event later this year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death.
On the more imminent front, Donatella Versace has designed two wedding gowns for Elizabeth Hurley, one for her wedding in England this weekend and another for a subsequent Hindu ceremony in India. The company is keeping sketches of the gowns under wraps.
For complete coverage see tomorrow's issue of WWD.
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