MILAN — Versace’s Versus brand has had its fair share of makeovers, guest designers and new starts, but it at last appears to be hitting its stride.
As the label gets set to show in London on Saturday, Versace chief executive officer Gian Giacomo Ferraris revealed in an exclusive interview that sales will double this year versus 2014 and three flagships will open in New York, Paris and London.
Revenues in 2015 are expected to reach 37 million euros, or $41.7 million at current exchange, compared with 19 million euros, or $21.4 million, in 2014, the ceo said.
Ferraris and Donatella Versace have been spearheading a new seasonless and digital business model for the Versus brand and, earlier this year, the designer appointed Anthony Vaccarello the new creative director of Versus.
“She is truly one of those we define as early adopters and she reaches out to them, always looking to be innovative,” said Ferraris of Donatella Versace. “Versus is contemporary and digital and that is her mentality, too.”
The spring show at London’s Victoria House Basement will be live-streamed and the collection will immediately be available on the Versus Web site (versusversace.com) and in selected stores globally from the following day.
Leveraging the funds injected by Blackstone Group — which last year paid 210 million euros, or $236.7 million, for a minority stake in Versace — the company has been accelerating its retail development. In April, Versus opened its first directly operated store in Tokyo’s Aoyama district with a new concept conceived by Donatella Versace in collaboration with Carmody Groarke. On Thursday, the brand unveiled a flagship in New York’s SoHo, on Greene Street, covering 2,160 square feet, and in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Today, a new unit will open in London’s Shoreditch area.
Ferraris pointed out that the digital element is also key in the stores, where delicate brass frames and two-way mirrors stand out as some of the main fixtures. To fit the Versus image, stores need to be flexible and not too big, spanning between 860 and 1,620 square feet, said Ferraris.
The openings bring the total number of Versus directly operated stores to 22.
Ferraris highlighted the company’s restructuring in order to meet the needs of instant delivery. “Versus is a company within the company, an organization within the organization, with different logistics. Design and production are in sync and everyone is interconnected, we can’t do samples. [Buyers] have to buy the collection in advance, and multibrands need to have trust [in Versus],” said the executive, noting that the company is also working with wholesalers. “We need to do so to be at the forefront of fashion. We are aiming at the new generations, or those with an attitude of early adopters.”
Women’s wear accounts for 60 percent of Versus sales, and Ferraris said the brand is also working on developing its accessories range.
Asked to address ongoing speculation about a possible timeframe for Versace’s initial public offering, Ferraris said there is no date set, but that the company is working according to a plan to grow sales and improve transparency, to be ready when the time will come. Ferraris said Versace expects double-digit growth in 2015 and to reach sales of 600 million to 650 million euros, or $676.4 million and $733 million at current exchange.
“Versace has the potential to reach sales of 800 million euros [$902 million] in 2017. It is a company that deserves to have revenues of at least 1 billion euros [$1.12 billion],” he said.
Ferraris has said in the past that the firm would look seriously at an IPO only once it reached revenues of 800 million euros. “When earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be around 20 percent of sales, we can go public,” he added.
In 2014 revenues climbed 16.9 percent to 548.7 million euros, or $729.7 million at average exchange rates. EBITDA rose 9.8 percent to 67.6 million euros, or $90 million.
To report its year-end figures, Versace has adopted International Accounting Standards, in line with the sector’s publicly listed companies. Asked about this procedure earlier this year, Ferraris told WWD that the company is “seriously and concretely preparing the process [for an IPO]. This is one step.” On Thursday, the ceo reiterated that the listing “is strongly desired by the family and by Blackstone. This is a company founded in 1978 and it’s proven to be unsinkable and it will still be here in 100 years.”
Over the summer, in line with the agreement with Blackstone, Versace approved a capital increase of 2 million euros, or $2.2 million, and that 0.3 percent of shares will be awarded to management upon the listing.
Addressing rumors that Versace might list on other stock exchanges than Milan, Ferraris said he could not see why it should be anywhere else, while conceding that Asia accounts for around 36 percent of Versace’s sales and that Blackstone is an American fund with offices in London. “When and where has really not been decided yet,” he said.
Ferraris said the first six months of the year went “very well, with a strong double-digit growth and Europe has become a leading motor of the company, with Americans, Asians and tourists from the Middle East traveling to the continent.”