Hong Kong No 21 flagship

HONG KONG — Alessandro Dell’Acqua was here for just a day last week to see his new No. 21 store for the first time. Although he felt right at home in the flagship, which opened last month, he was disappointed that a typhoon meant he wouldn’t have a chance to meet any customers.

“I love meeting clients, and seeing their passion and what they are buying from me is a big part of the continuous evolution of what I’m doing,” the designer said.

The 1,200-square-foot store on Ice House Street in Central is the latest in a string of openings for Dell’Acqua across Asia. The brand opened a flagship in Tokyo in 2014, five shops-in-shop in Seoul in the last two years and a flagship in Hangzhou in August, its first in China.

The rapid growth in Asia is with the support of its distribution partners LK Corp. in South Korea and I.T. across the rest of Asia. I.T. is currently scouting for suitable store spaces in China.

“Next year — 2017 — we plan for more openings in Southeast China and Shanghai and most likely another flagship in Tokyo, probably Ginza,” he said.

Japan is the biggest market in Asia for the six-year-old brand. The designer’s first line, which he launched in 1996 and bore his name, was very popular in Japan. He was forced to quit the label in 2009 after falling out with his financial backers, but it seems the Japanese have not forgotten him.

“The Japanese like to follow a designer and they give me very good feedback. They like that it’s easy to wear and the details are fresh. And they seem to love the women’s fashion that includes some masculine elements, it reflects the Japanese way of wearing clothes,” Dell’Acqua said.

The brand is growing fast. In 2015, turnover was 24 million euros, up 55 percent from the previous year. Turnover for this year is expected to be double that of 2015. While Europe is still the biggest market, Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea) accounts for 45 percent of the business. This is by far the fastest-growing sector and has doubled each year since 2012.

The collection also is growing fast. Beginning with a women’s wear collection of just 30 to 40 styles in 2010, now No. 21 includes a men’s line, a children’s line and accessories. The rapid increase means Dell’Acqua has had to switch production to a larger factory, still in Milan.

Dell’Acqua would have loved to stay another day in Hong Kong, but a tight schedule had him on the plane back to Italy the day after the typhoon. In addition to No. 21, he is the creative director for Rochas, where he has overseen the women’s wear label since 2013.

“Rochas takes about 40 percent of my time and No. 21 about 40 percent. My heart is with No. 21 of course — it’s my bambino,” he said.

Although the storm meant Dell’Acqua couldn’t meet any of his Hong Kong customers face to face, he keeps close tabs on them and their likes and dislikes on social media, particularly Instagram.

“It is interesting to see how people from different parts of the world wear my pieces in different ways, different combinations. Sometimes they say they adore it but sometimes they are very critical, even offend me and say something is ugly — but that’s part of the game,” he said.