MILAN – Zeis Excelsa sold 51 percent of Dirk Bikkembergs to Guangzhou Canudilo Fashion & Accessories Co. Ltd., which paid nearly 40.7 million euros, or about $45.7 million at current exchange, for control of the sporty fashion brand.

Zeis Excelsa president Maurizio Pizzuti said the move is part of a broad international push for Dirk Bikkembergs, which will have about 90 stand-alone stores worldwide by the end of the year.

The agreement with the Chinese firm came about after executives from Guangzhou Canudilo approached him following the last Bikkembergs men’s fashion show in January.

“They were very decisive,” said Pizzuti, adding that he waited to see their formal business plan and visit them in China before moving forward.

“On our own in China, it would have taken us 20 years to do the things they’re going to help us do,” he said, noting that Guangzhou Canudilo is listed on the stock exchange in Shenzhen and has a vast distribution network in China, Macau and Hong Kong.

Bikkembergs’ expansion in China will focus on “quality over quantity,” with new flagships slated to open in major cities and a large-scale e-commerce operation to bow in the near future, according to Pizzuti.

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Russia and Eastern Europe remain Bikkembergs’ strongest markets overall, in spite of the region’s political and financial woes, he added.

In March, Zeis Excelsa signed a 10-year licensing deal with Perfume Holding for the creation, development and distribution of the first Dirk Bikkembergs scent; the inaugural juice is expected to launch in January.

“In our stores, everyone was always asking, ‘But don’t you have a fragrance line?’” Pizzuti said, adding the company was “confident” about the upcoming launch.

This month, Bikkembergs is unveiling a men’s underwear line produced with licensing partner Perofil at the Pitti Uomo trade show in Florence.