UNGARO: TOO EARLY TO ENTER HUNGARY
BUDAPEST — Central Europe is not ready for Emanuel Ungaro.
Here for the third semiannual Opera House Fashion Show, which featured his fall couture collection, Ungaro said he regretted that “it’s too early” for him to think about selling his designs to Hungarians and to other central Europeans.
When asked about possible plans to enter the Hungarian market, he said, “Of course, we would like so much to be involved with this country. We’d love to do that. But for the moment, the economies of Western and middle Europe are not on the same level. For the moment, except maybe for certain products, we can only start to work with these countries [later]. I regret that it’s too early.”
Hungary’s average monthly wage of roughly $300 probably would keep all but a tiny elite from being able to purchase Ungaro’s designs. Hungarian consumers have become trademark-conscious in the post-socialist transition to a market economy, but they are cost-conscious as well.
“We have to help these countries of East Europe,” said Ungaro. “If not, we become too selfish. I feel very European. I believe in the big Europe.”
The mostly middle-class, middle-aged audience filled the ornate 19th-century opera house on fashionable Andrassy Street to capacity, offering a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Ungaro’s show.
Afterward, a gathering of prominent Budapest society along with U.S. Ambassador Donald Blinken, toasted Ungaro with champagne and ate a buffet of typical Hungarian reception cuisine: stuffed cabbage, sausages and ham.
The Opera House series of fashion shows, inaugurated in November 1993, is sponsored by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs, and is aimed at building exposure for Hungarian fashion by combining local designers in a show spotlighting a Western designer. The initial show featured the Nina Ricci collection.
The latest show was divided into two segments. In the first, nine Hungarians presented their collections in what was described as the first annual young designers’ contest. The winner was the only male among them, Zoltan Gombos, whose collection of beige tops and flouncy white skirts won what Ungaro described as the unanimous approval of the mostly Hungarian jury. Ungaro, whose ancestors migrated from Hungary to Sicily in the 17th century, was the jury chairman.
— Fairchild News Service