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SEOUL — Fendi’s creative director, Silvia Fendi, and chief executive officer, Michael Burke, boogied into the early hours here after the Rome-based company hosted a fashion show, dinner and dance on man-made islands on the Han River that bisects the South Korean capital.
Among the celebrities attending the event were Chinese movie star Ziyi Zhang; Korean actress Yunjin Kim, best known in the West for her role in the TV series “Lost” and Japanese model Youn-a.
“After the 2007 fashion show on China’s Great Wall we were thinking to do something in Asia and we found a space that represents Fendi’s DNA, the traditional importance of the Han River in Korean culture and the contemporary or forward thinking represented by the modern man-made islands now floating on the waterway,” said Silvia Fendi.
The show included more than a dozen fur pieces. Outside the event, anti-fur activists held signs in English that read, “Fendi kills animals for money.” The protestors briefly disrupted the start of the show. Silvia Fendi, who was met with a wave of catcalls by anti-fur activists when she arrived, said she understood the protest.
“We respect different beliefs,” she said. “We did a collection of fake fur several years ago but found it is the most polluting thing for the environment. Pesticides and bleaches are used to produce cotton garments. Many anti-fur campaigners eat fish and meat and wear leather shoes. Fur is a most natural thing and was used as the first garment. My grandmother stopped buying white and spotted animal furs. We are trying to find a solution.”
After Italy, South Korea is the second-biggest market for Fendi’s fur, said Burke. There are more than 1,500 different companies doing fur business in South Korea, a multibillion-dollar industry where wealthy Korean women pay as much as $200,000 for a coat, said Burke.
Burke, who has been coming to Korea for 20 years, expects to triple Fendi’s sales in the country in 2011 compared with 2010. He declined to give any sales figures.
“Korea is in a central location in Asia, a cultural hub, whose movies, music and TV shows are influential in the region,” said Burke. “It is strategically important for a company like Fendi to be influential in Korea.”
South Korea is the fourth-biggest market in the world for Fendi, equal to China, excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
About half the 1,200 guests at the event are expected to descend on a hotel to order items shown at the show. About 60 Fendi staff will service the customers from China, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. For the past decade in South Korea Fendi has been selling its products through “trunk shows,” events run at hotels for its highest spending customers who are able to order bespoke items from the Fendi catalogue.