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Vera Wang Preps for Asian Expansion

Although no deals have been signed, Mario Grauso confirmed the company’s interest in opening freestanding stores in Asia.

NEW YORK — Vera Wang is turning her attention to Asia.

This story first appeared in the February 29, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Although no deals have been signed, Mario Grauso, president of Vera Wang, confirmed the company’s interest in opening freestanding stores in Asia, with boutiques most likely to open in Japan first. “We’re working on it. We’re not close enough to anything to discuss it. There are no term sheets out,” he said.

Grauso said he’s held discussions with several people and is planning a two-week trip in April to visit Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul to sew up some deals.

“We’re looking at everything,” he said. His first priority would be to open some bridal stores. “We’re interested in hearing what the partners are interested in [beyond] the bridal stores,” said Grauso. He said the freestanding stores would both sell and rent bridal gowns.

In China, renting wedding gowns is a popular option among brides, he explained. “Rental is big there. We have to figure out how to make that work for our brand,” he said. Grauso said there is a good percentage of women who are buying bridal gowns, but “a larger percentage is renting.” He said stores in both China and Japan would offer rentals.

Grauso has met with Veronica Chou, president of Iconix China, which markets brands such as Badgley Mischka, Rampage and London Fog in China, who has introduced him to potential partners. Ideally, Grauso sees Wang boutiques in Asia being similar in size to those in Chicago and Los Angeles, ranging between 1,500 and 2,500 square feet. The stores would primarily sell and rent wedding gowns, but would offer “a certain amount of ready-to-wear” as well. “It’s all about space constraints. We’d carve out a space for ready-to-wear,” he added.

When Wang enters a new market, it always starts with the higher-end merchandise, he said. Currently the company is selling some Asian accounts, but it’s not a large business, he noted. “We want to develop some kind of retail presence [there]. Specialty store distribution is limiting. We have to do something with our name. We’re close to some deals, and are meeting with partners. We should have something by the fall,” he said.