Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Moderate career apparel maker John Paul Richard Inc. has signed a long-term retail licensing deal with Hempel Corp., the retail arm of one of China’s largest apparel conglomerates.
The deal calls for the Hangzhou, China-based retail division to open 200 points for the John Paul Richard brand over the next four years. Of that total, about 30 will be freestanding stores. The first is a 1,500-square-foot door slated to bow in Beijing in August.
“When you see the unparalleled growth going on in China, you want to be a part of it,” said Richard Hirsh, chief executive officer of John Paul Richard. “It’s contagious. It’s a big world out there, and you don’t want to get stuck just in the U.S.”
Hempel executives appear equally enthused, foregoing the usual press release to announce the news in a yard-long brocade scroll.
In a statement, Hempel chairman Ko Chi Wai pointed out that the deal represents one of the first times an American company has been invited into a retail partnership with a mainland Chinese conglomerate. Most U.S. brands sold in China are distributed by Hong Kong-based agents, he said.
Brand distribution will include opening signature stores, leasing floor space in department stores and licensing the name to large retailers in China. All goods will be based on U.S. design direction and produced by Hempel’s affiliated manufacturing company, a John Paul Richard contractor for the past decade.
Financial details on the deal were not disclosed. John Paul Richard, based in Calabasas, Calif., will do $130 million domestically this year, according to Hirsh.
Ed Redding, executive vice president of global sourcing for John Paul Richard, said the Chinese market is “thirsty for Western-style stores, design and fashions. China has been a closed society. There’s been a lot of simulation of Western brands, but they all miss a little bit.”
Accordingly, the signature stores will have minimalist fixtures and hardwood and stone floors. In-store graphics will feature non-Asian models.
The merchandise mix will be less casual than the U.S. assortment. About 70 percent will be traditional careerwear and coordinating accessories, to represent the Chinese market’s greater focus on that sector.
Hirsh said Hempel is also interested in Fever Jeans, the contemporary brand in which John Paul Richard holds a majority stake and sells well in Japan, but a deal has not been struck.

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