Bolstered by a string of well-received collections in recent seasons, positive feedback from the sales floor, and her newly profitable status, Stella McCartney is setting her sights on Asia.
In 2007, the brand signed an exclusive distribution deal with the Lane Crawford Joyce Group to open 10 freestanding stores in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia by 2012. And yesterday, McCartney announced a partnership with TSG International Marketing Pvt to open 6 stores across India, including two stores by the end of this year.
Boy have things changed for the upstart brands in Gucci’s portfolio. After years of operating in the red, there was much hoopla in 2007 when Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen finally broke-even, meeting the targets first set by CEO Robert Polet in a fiery presentation in December 2004. That presentation also identified Asia — China in particular — as the main engine for Gucci Group’s growth, a point that was re-iterated by Francois Henri-Pinault, CEO of parent company PPR, just last month.
Recent questions about the impact of a global economic slowdown in Asia don’t seem to be holding luxury brands from aggressively betting on these markets to get them through the economic dip. But while the Chinese market appears to be pushing ahead (despite the empty shopping malls photographed by Monocle), we have been hearing murmurs about ongoing challenges that luxury brands are facing in India: stores are not opening as quickly as expected and cash registers are not ringing as loudly. India, it seems, will be a different kind of emerging market for luxury brands; one requiring more tailoring and understanding of local needs and tastes.
All the same, Stella McCartney is not a luxury brand that is held back by heritage or old-world notions of luxury. As one of the first proponents of ethical fashion, the brand has a positioning all its own, especially when compared to other brands with the backing of a major Luxury group.
Perhaps this modern flexibility will give the brand a leg up as it sets its sights on India. Or maybe it already has. What other brand could credibly announce an initiative to save tigers as part of its global expansion plan?
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press