By  on April 14, 2009

German sportswear brand Ambiente officially launches its U.S. strategy April 23 with a fashion show at its store in Palm Desert, Calif., which will be followed by a string of trunk shows there and at retail accounts.

The company just started some local magazine advertising, is considering a show in New York in August, and is seeking a Dallas representative in addition to the U.S. headquarters and showroom at 214 West 39th Street in Manhattan, run by Skender Perolli, a 30-year veteran of the industry. The Palm Desert shop had a soft opening a month ago, and the brand is currently sold at Rizik’s in Washington; Andrea’s in Beverly Hills, and Tres Mariposas in El Paso, among other stores.

In a Q&A, Michael Boveleth, managing director and the grandson of a tailor who founded the company 24 years ago, acknowledged the timing of the U.S. strategy is far from ideal. But he contended that getting all the pieces in place now will enable Ambiente to capitalize on an economic turnaround.

Based in Düsseldorf, the $35 million bridge-priced brand emphasizes details and embellishments such as piping, sequins, animal prints, fur trim and embroidery, and seemingly contrasting styles that are coordinated to create outfits. There are two collections: Ambiente for day to evening looks and Ambiente Sport, which is more casual and priced 15 to 20 percent less. The company boasts workmanship and high-tech Italian fabrics. “Not too many brands offer this at our price point,” said Boveleth. Although there is plenty of activity currently, he considers the plan conservative and remains confident the line, designed by his wife Sibylle, will resonate in the U.S. Ambiente is sold in 14 other countries.

WWD: Who is the target audience?
Michael Boveleth: An affluent or career woman from ages 30-60 plus or minus five years.

WWD: Why did you decide to enter the U.S.?
M.B.: The U.S. market is vast and the consumer is perfect for our product. They understand fashion, quality and demand the right fit.

WWD: With the economy so weak, are you worried about the timing of the store opening and the wholesaling?
M.B.: Of course we are worried about the market, but we believe in our product and in the U.S. We believe the market has bottomed and will probably have some difficulties for another season or two. However, history shows the market will come back and we would already be established and be a couple of steps ahead of our competition.

WWD: Are you adapting the line for America?
M.B.: We will make some modifications such as toning down on the embellishment, which is popular in Europe but not in the U.S. However, our fashion is very well received in the U.S. and the consumer is buying it. It has an old garment industry tradition of workmanship.

WWD: How will you let American women know the line is here?
M.B.: We have a marketing strategy that covers trunk shows, local and national advertisements, and fashion shows.

WWD: Describe the Palm Desert store and its sales plan.
M.B.: The store is 1,600 square feet. It’s located at 73-11 El Paseo, near Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Burberry, Saks, Tiffany, Coach and Escada. We are projecting about $900,000 [in sales] the first year, $1.2 million a year after and ultimately $1.5 million. We want to open in Highland Park Village in Dallas, on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, and in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. We see opening two stores a year for five years.

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