PARIS — French fashion house Alexis Mabille has signed a partnership with Chinese fast-fashion retailer Peacebird to establish a network of stores in Greater China, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Under the terms of the deal, Ningbo Peacebird Fashion Co. Ltd. — which develops brands including Peacebird, Material Girl and Amazing Peace — has acquired a minority stake in the Paris-based couture label for an undisclosed sum, the companies said in a joint statement.

Representatives of Peacebird will sit on the supervisory board of Alexis Mabille.

The company recently applied for a public listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and says it aims to become the leading Chinese fashion retailer.

Based in the coastal city of Ningbo, Peacebird was launched by entrepreneur Zhang Jiangping 20 years ago and had a network of more than 3,400 stores by the end of 2014. Revenues totaled 700 million euros, or $930 million, last year with a net profit of more than 60 million euros, or $80 million, it said.

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Martin Mabille, chairman and chief executive officer of Alexis Mabille, said the brand’s first stand-alone stores in China could open in 2017 or 2018.

“[Our partners] are very upbeat about the potential of the market and are talking about a number of stores in the three figures,” he said, sitting with his brother Alexis in the house’s couture salon above its store in the historic Galerie Vivienne here.

“We will start with a test on the first three or four boutiques. If it is conclusive, they think they will be able to go up to 30 or 40 stores very quickly simply by replicating [the store format] in other first- and second-tier cities,” he added, noting that the first openings would most certainly be Beijing and Shanghai.

In addition to developing and selling its own collections for men and women, Peacebird has started diversifying its brand portfolio, entering into a joint venture with Iconix for the Chinese distribution of the Material Girl brand cofounded by Madonna.

Alexis Mabille said that although he has few Chinese clients for his couture, the activity has helped to establish his brand in China, with local celebrities like singers Angelababy and Chris Lee and actresses Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi wearing his creations.

“Chinese consumers like extremely refined, high-end products, and that is very exciting for us in terms of development, because the Chinese really love fashion,” he noted.

Martin Mabille said the brand would only sell ready-to-wear in China and would not develop collections specifically for that market. He lauded Peacebird for its state-of-the-art distribution center and its friendly working environment, comparing its headquarters to those of Google.

“They are passionate about fashion and they are real manufacturers,” he said. “They are looking to grow and to diversify their client portfolio. Luxury is something new for them, so they are approaching it in a cautious manner. But they are very enthusiastic about the brand and what they want to do with it in China.”

The executive was upbeat about prospects in Greater China, despite the slowdown in growth in Mainland China and the political turmoil in neighboring Hong Kong, which has sharply dented luxury sales this year. He noted that as Chinese consumers become more sophisticated, they are looking to explore new luxury brands.

“There is a lot of room to grow, a lot of consumption to capture. Chinese consumers still spend a lot on fashion,” Mabille said.

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