SHANGHAI — The Zimmermann sisters revealed they are eyeing China as their first Asian location on a networking and fact-finding mission to Shanghai this week. In a brief window between the beachy brand’s latest European store opening in Paris and New York Fashion Week next month, Simone and Nicky Zimmermann swooped into the eastern Chinese city for a whirlwind meet-and-greet.
The main focus of the trip was an intimate dinner with selected KOLs and media at the No.1 Waitanyuan event space on The Bund, cohosted by long-term partner Net-a-porter. But behind the scenes, the Sydney-based sisters were sounding out relationships and locations as they eye China for their first foray into Asia against a backdrop of rapid global expansion.
Sipping cappuccinos at the fashionable Middle House hotel in Shanghai’s glitzy Jing’an district the morning before the party, the Zimmermanns confirmed that they are in talks with China-based consultancy LifeStyle Logistics, with plans to open a Tmall store early next year to compliment their already established direct online sales business. They also revealed “definite” plans to open bricks-and-mortar stores in Greater China, most likely in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong to start with, but said specifics are still in the works.
“In the same way as we approach any country, we need to spend a lot of time here and really think about where we want to be, because so much of what we’re doing is about us loving the stores and positions we’ve picked,” said chief operating officer Simone Zimmermann, sporting a flowy leopard-print blouse from the brand’s fall espionage-inspired collection.
Zimmermann’s global spread began in 2016 with the establishment of a New York office and American investment from General Atlantic, who also finance Anita Dongre and Tory Burch. U.S. locations, such as the Hamptons, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, have sprung up quickly, with the first London store opening in August 2017 and St. Tropez a year later. With six new locations this year alone, the brand now boasts a total of 36 stores across Australia, the U.S. and Europe, but Asia is yet to see an on-the-ground Zimmermann presence.
Celebrity fans including Kendall Jenner, Beyoncé and Kate Middleton have supercharged the label’s global popularity but inevitably led to imposters, with Zimmermann being one of the most commonly copied labels on China’s number-one online marketplace, Taobao. This is a phenomenon the sisters are acutely aware of and working tirelessly to tackle, although they admit such trials are testament to their success.
“For myself and my team, it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying, but then we remember that they’re doing it because people really want it,” said creative director Nicky Zimmermann. “As our mom would say, imitation is the highest form of flattery.”
Although the sisters declined to give a precise revenue breakdown or any solid numbers, they revealed that recent years have seen 60 percent of the brand’s market share come from outside Australia, with the dress-heavy, ready-to-wear clothing line just beating out the signature swimwear collections. They also clarified that the tried-and-tested focus on big city and vacation locations will be continued going forward, with Hawaii, Dallas, Rome and Munich in their crosshairs for the future.
“Our girl travels a lot, but she lives and works in cities,” Nicky Zimmermann said. “It’s about being able to connect the dots between where she lives and where she goes.”
In the short term, she will now turn her focus to New York, where she will unveil a bright and bold collection inspired by iconic Aussie surf documentary, Endless Summer.
“It’s not so much about the content of the film but the feeling,” said Nicky, who this year celebrates 30 years since she started making clubbing outfits in her parents’ garage. “Seeing the film as a teenager was quite inspiring as it made you feel like you could do anything, so you should go and do what you love.”