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La Perla Bounces Back

The luxury Italian lingerie and swimwear brand's newfound financial stability has paved the way for expansion.

A look from La Perla's Paisley Collection.

“Resilience” describes more than just the stretch in La Perla’s swimwear.

The luxury Italian lingerie and swimwear brand had put several hundred employees on government-funded leave until it became part of telecommunications entrepreneur Silvio Scaglia’s portfolio following an animated auction in the Court of Bologna in 2013. Now, as part of Pacific Global Management — which also owns the Elite World network of modeling agencies and Chinese entertainment management firm Gold Typhoon — La Perla’s newfound financial stability has paved the way for expansion.

Pacific is investing some 120 million euros in the intimates label over the next year and a half (about $163 million). La Perla sales were about 100 million euros ($135 million) last year, and the company projects sales of about 150 million euros ($203 million) this year.

La Perla global marketing director Nick Tacchi said the company was working on several fronts, including product design. “The collections are still intimates and lingerie-centered, but in a more contemporary way; some pieces could even be worn as outerwear because they are very refined,” he explained, citing an elaborately embellished corset that might be worn under a jacket.

Production remains in Bologna, and Tacchi stressed that Italian craftsmanship is central to the brand’s identity: To that end, management has rehired all the employees who were furloughed last year.

La Perla also plans to lace its digital platforms with behind-the-scenes videos to draw customers into the lengthy research and design process: “It’s a story that deserves to be told,” he said, noting the hours of manual labor behind single garments contribute to their high price tags. “You should be able to feel the products’ value on your skin.”

Tacchi did not rule out future collaborations with fashion designers on capsule collections, and noted that La Perla would soon offer select items made-to-measure.

The firm currently counts 210 monobrand stores, and by 2015, Tacchi said, the plan is to open an additional 30, reaching 300 in 2016. La Perla products are also available internationally in a network of about 1,500 retailers. “Our approach is very balanced,” Tacchi said. “While Europe is our core market, we also plan to expand in the U.S. and significantly in Asia, in China in particular.”

La Perla’s chief executive officer for North America, Suzy Biszantz, said there are now 11 directly operated stores in that market, with plans to open a boutique in San Francisco this year. “We’re also looking at expanding in Texas, in both Dallas and Houston,” she added.

Brand awareness for La Perla lingerie is strong in the U.S., Biszantz noted, but the company would like to increase consumers’ familiarity with its swimwear line, which is strongest in areas like Bal Harbour, Fla.

La Perla’s spring ad campaign, which features models Malgosia Bela, Liu Wen and Cara Delevingne shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, is calculated to convey a very high-end positioning and “address women directly,” Tacchi noted, by expressing different aspects of feminine sensuality.

“We haven’t had a global ad campaign of that caliber in years, and we’re already seeing the returns,” added Biszantz.

Customers’ in-store experience is also key to the relaunch, and La Perla worked with architect Roberto Baciocchi to create a lavish yet modern setting where women feel comfortable shopping. The new interior will reach four U.S. boutiques this year — Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, Calif. — and another four in 2015. To create buzz, the company is planning a series of international store events with La Perla models in attendance.