Style star-turned-designer Chiara Ferragni conquered the digital world. Now she’s out to make her brand a global retail force.
As Ferragni prepares to unveil her hotel-themed spring 2018 collection and a see-now-buy-now capsule at Milan Fashion Week, she is embarking on an ambitious store rollout.
After opening locations in Milan, Shanghai and Chengdu, China, earlier this year, Chiara Ferragni Collection inked a deal with Riqing Group to fast-track growth in China. The teams plan to open 35 stores there in the next few years.
“Coming from the digital world, it may seem strange, but I really love going out for shopping,” said Ferragni, who gives her 11 million Instagram fans a look at her life on her social channels. “I like how a brand can shape your shopping experience through its retail space.”
The label’s Milan location, which opened this summer, is decked out in Ferragni’s signature glitter motif and plays up the concept of “airport life.” “When I travel, I always post pictures of me and my looks outside the airport. It has become sort of a tradition now and my followers really relate to that,” she said.
While Milan is an obvious choice for a store given her Italian roots and strong fan base there, Ferragni also has found a following in China. “Right now, the market is booming for us,” said chief executive officer Andrea Lorini, who noted that Asian consumers are seeking unique styles from up-and-coming brands.
The U.S. market is also high on the expansion list, and the label is scouting store locations in New York and Los Angeles, where Ferragni resides part time. Lorini said Europe is another target area, though China will definitely be the initial focus. (The brand also recently unveiled its online boutique with Tmall.com.)
“We’re the opposite of a normal brand that starts with physical stores,” the ceo said. “We’ll always [be strong] on digital and social, but the physical element is what was missing.”
Lorini noted that the Milan location opened during the summer, when many stores were on sale. “We opened at full price and had amazing results,” he said.
As the team plots its next moves, Ferragni is ready to unveil her spring collection, called “Suite Life,” which emphasizes the designer’s jet-setting lifestyle.
“I now live half my life in Los Angeles, a city that has always been a huge inspiration for my work. When I’m there I often go to hotel restaurants or bars with my friends. On the other hand, when I travel, I spend a lot of time in the hotels that host me. So I get to experience the lifestyle.”
The collection is bigger than last season and features more apparel, including hoodies and silk PJs. Ferragni’s first activewear line will include sport bras, tracksuits, bombers and one-piece swimsuits, driven by a color-blocked aesthetic.
As for the shoes, palm trees made of crystals decorate slip-on and slipper styles. Martini cocktails and “Kiss me in my suite” slogans give heels and mules a playful kick.
The designer also will introduce a see-now, buy-now collection at her presentation, a move aimed to ignite excitement at retail.
Overall, the brand continues to experience impressive growth. Lorini said 2016 revenues were about 17 million euros. While physical stores are expected to drive further expansion, digital remains a significant part of the business. In June, for example, online sales were up 235 percent compared with the same month a year ago.
At wholesale, the brand is now stocked in nearly 400 stores globally. “We have been testing new markets and increasing brand awareness,” Lorini said.
During the past several seasons, Chiara Ferragni Collection has launched pop-ups and exclusive styles with key retailers including Level Shoes in Dubai, Luisa Via Roma in Florence, IT Hong Kong, Le Bon Marché in Paris, Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and others.
Ferragani also has generated attention through collaborations with legendary French bakery Laduree and Disney. For the latter, the designer created a small capsule shoe collection with Mickey Mouse iconography.
Lorini revealed that there are two more collaborations in the works, but declined to reveal details. He said, “We strongly believe in partnerships.”