CHINESE CARNIVAL: Italian brand Stefanel SpA, known for its casual chic knitwear and sportswear, has signed a five-year agreement with fashion retailer Carnival International, part of the Taiwanese corporation Yulon Group, granting exclusive distribution rights for Stefanel clothing and accessories in China and Taiwan.

“The Chinese market has enormous potential and it’s crucial to be present there,” stated Stefanel president Giuseppe Stefanel. “However, it’s also indispensable to find the right local partner.” Stefanel said the agreement will help the company strengthen its position in the Far East. The company is already present in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

This story first appeared in the December 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And the brand already has four stores in China, which Stefanel said Carnival is developing. In addition, 50 new Stefanel boutiques are slated to open in Chinese and Taiwanese shopping malls and department stores, with openings in Beijing, Shenyang and Chengdu in spring 2012.

The stores will adopt the concept laid out by London architecture studio Sybarite, which Stefanel described as a “fresh, innovative” way to present the company’s products, especially knitwear. Stefanel celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009 and since then has been rolling out a rebranding campaign; in 2010, the brand launched Made for Stefanel, a jewelry collection designed by Kenyan women using recycled, ethically sourced materials, and in 2011 it presented an Eco-Cashmere Collection during Berlin Fashion Week.

Speaking about his company’s experience in the Asian market, Stefanel was enthusiastic, noting that customers were responsive and the Hong Kong store, “a diamond,” saw sales increase by 38 percent over the past year. He further stressed the importance of developing Asian stores in light of the faltering Italian economy.