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Versace Spirit Comes to E-commerce

Expect a “very Versace” online store when the company unveils its new site on Wednesday.

MILAN — Expect a “very Versace” online store when the company unveils its new e-commerce site on Wednesday.

This story first appeared in the September 19, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In an exclusive interview, the brand’s chief executive officer, Gian Giacomo Ferraris, described the new site as fully mirroring the spirit of creative director Donatella Versace and the label’s lifestyle and aesthetics.

The site will be controlled by the company, which is partnering with German e-commerce firm Netrada. The latter will set up and operate all back-office functions and manage technology and logistics. “This is in line with our strategy to bring everything in-house,” said Ferraris, who has been restructuring the company and returning it to the black. “We can control all functions and be totally independent, from the definition of the site and its marketing and ads to the information to our customers and their feedback. We need the interactivity. And we are more flexible if we are on our own turf.”

With subsidiaries in the U.S. and China, Netrada has the infrastructure to support Versace’s ambitious plans for a global rollout of its e-commerce offer, said Ferraris, revealing the company invested 2 million euros, or $2.62 million at current exchange, in the start-up, and worked on the project for the past year.

The site goes live today in Italy, the U.K., France and Germany, and will be available in the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Austria from Oct. 17. More countries will be added next year. The store carries all of Versace’s product ranges — from clothing, fragrances, handbags and small leather goods to its home collection, footwear and the new Young Versace line. It will add Versus at a later stage.

Asked about the timing of the launch, Ferraris said that “this is a moment where there is a strong interest in the brand. We wouldn’t be able to physically open that many stores, and this is one way to be approached.” Ferraris said he expected online sales to account for a “minimum” of 1 percent of the group’s total revenues next year.

“Versace is all about boldness and glamour,” said Donatella Versace, expressing excitement about the new site before adding, “Online shopping has never been so sexy and fun.”

Dramatic photography — one of Donatella Versace’s passions — is a strong element of the site. Products are shot on golden mannequins “that look like androids,” said Andreas Bergbaur, group director of marketing, e-commerce and digital strategy.

Zoom effects; standout detailing of fabrics and textures; frequently changing front-end floor displays of merchandise, and dedicated capsule collections are also noteworthy.

Bergbaur, who joined the company in January, said the site is “dynamic, innovative and content-driven.” He mentioned “Donatella’s Hot Picks,” with the designer’s favorite items, and the “My Versace” section, where she invites visitors to tune a “display mixer like an old radio” to personalize their shopping experience depending on the occasion — ranging from “Red Carpet” and “First Date” to an “Out for Business” and “Getaway Weekend.” The designer’s interest in the site and her desire to encourage a dialogue with customers is evident throughout.

Bergbaur said there is a strong editorial approach: “We plan to make changes every four weeks, so that the site is dynamic, while we can’t redo a store every four weeks. This is possible only online.”

Coming up next are Versace-dedicated microsites and apps in the near future, he said.

The site reflects the brand’s new concept store conceived by Donatella Versace with architect Jamie Fobert, which will be unveiled in October on Mercer Street in New York. A mosaic pattern — a reference to Gianni Versace — and Plexiglas fixtures will be central elements in both brick-and-mortar and online stores.

A boutique in Paris with the new look will open early next year on Avenue Montaigne.