PARIS — Transporting a megadesigner name into a major untapped market, Apax Partners is out to spark Karl mania in Greater China.
The owner of the Karl Lagerfeld business just opened its first boutiques — a flagship location in Beijing and a more compact unit in Shanghai — the first volleys in a rollout that could see around 40 stores sprout over the next five years.
Disclosing the new strategic thrust in an exclusive interview, Lagerfeld chief executive officer Pier Paolo Righi said the company plans to capitalize on the German designer’s fame — fanned by his very visible work for Chanel and Fendi over decades — and tap into curiosity about his signature brand, which until now has been available only in a small selection of department stores.
“It’s great for the consumer to see the breadth of the Karl Lagerfeld world,” Righi said, citing a “very positive” initial reaction to the two mall-based units in China, which opened over the summer. The unit in Shanghai’s Jing An Kerry Centre spans 1,100 square feet, while the location in Beijing’s Charter Shopping Centre is 2,400 square feet and was feted with a celebrity-studded party attended by the likes of American actors Rachel Bilson and Hayden Christensen, model Du Juan and Chinese film stars Deng Chao and Bai Baihe.
“Our expectations for China are very high because what we also see is a new emerging consumer group,” Righi said. “There’s a younger luxury consumer, a young fashion consumer that is looking for not-so-established brands…not the brands their parents are wearing, but something new and fresh that gives them access to a luxury world but in an accessible way.”
Over the past six months, Righi has built up an in-house team of about 20 people in China to spearhead the expansion directly, with another four stores slated to open in the next six months, including a second location in Beijing.
Heading the effort is Andrew Cai, appointed president and ceo of Karl Lagerfeld Greater China, overseeing the business on the Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore.
Cai joined Lagerfeld from Burberry, where he was senior vice president in charge of the business in China. Cai also worked for 10 years at Louis Vuitton in Asia, as retail director and merchandising director. He holds an MBA from elite French school INSEAD.
“China has the potential to be the largest market for the brand,” Righi said. The company plans to initially target first-tier cities in China, planting multiple locations in those before heading out to the regions.
Assortments in the Chinese units are similar to Lagerfeld boutiques in Europe, spanning women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, leather goods, shoes, watches, eyewear and gift items — plus some special eveningwear and cocktail dresses, to meet high expectations for luxury.
“We will also be opening some accessories-focused stores in China as well,” Righi added, noting these would spotlight mainly handbags and shoes.
Eager to build a signature business to match Lagerfeld’s outsized personality and fashion reputation, Apax recently repositioned the brand and its rock ’n’ roll-flavored collections in the burgeoning masstige and contemporary price zones.
The company initiated its retail drive earlier this year, planting its first new-look stores — in graphic black and white, with lots of high-tech amenities — in Paris, Amsterdam and several cities in Germany.
Righi trumpeted the broad appeal of the brand across generations, noting that its two locations in the French capital — amidst luxury brands in the tony Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, and young, hipster boutiques in the trendy Marais district — are performing strongly.
Righi has said that the Lagerfeld business has the potential to grow to 100 locations worldwide.
He noted that Europe and China would be the main thrusts for its retail push, although the company is also looking at the Middle East and Russia.
To wit: On Wednesday night, Lagerfeld headed to Munich to christen a two-level, 1,940-square-foot signature boutique at 5 Maffeistrasse. The store carries a Bavarian-flavored capsule collection in honor of the city’s famous Oktoberfest celebrations, which kick off Sept. 21.
Last month, an 850-square-foot Lagerfeld unit dedicated to his Lagerfeld men’s line, licensed to Miltenberg, Germany-based F.D. Fashion Herrenmode GmbH, opened in Munich in the Fünf Höfe shopping complex.
Given the early termination of a licensing contact with Italy’s Ittierre (see related story, page 6), which manufactured a small portion of Karl Lagerfeld collections, it is understood all products under that label will now be produced in house.
While in Munich, the designer also attended an advance screening of a new Vox documentary by television journalist Martina Neuen that compares fashion to religion, with Lagerfeld portrayed as its pope. The four-hour program is slated to air on Saturday night.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion