The spotlight is once again on Versace. The fashion house is ready to reveal the outcome of its collaboration with one music superstar, Zayn Malik, while another, Lady Gaga, wore custom-made Versace outfits when she performed at this year’s Super Bowl. And there is the Italian brand’s big play for more market share in Asia.
Lady Gaga is friends with Donatella Versace, the chief designer and vice-president of the house that bears her family’s name. “I understand that fashion is about change and about a conversation with different kinds of people, especially those that think differently,” Versace said at the opening of a new outlet in Hong Kong. In that spirit, her brand, not content with outfitting superstars and young models, is bent on selling more fashion to more wealthy Asians who hope to express their powerful, sensual femininity in what they wear.
Versace is rolling out two flagship stores and a hotel in Greater China. One boutique is the newly opened outlet in Hong Kong’s Central and the other will be in Shanghai. Macau’s Palazzo Versace hotel is likely to open later this year. “It’s wonderful to be in Hong Kong this time and the new store looks amazing. We’re really happy,” Versace said.
Versace was eager to stage an impressive show that suited the brand’s ambition. Hong Kong’s celebrity set filled the front row at Shaw Studios, once the center of a booming film industry, as models strutted up and down in the fall and winter collections for men and women.
“The reality is that it’s really a family business, with a true understanding of what the brand codes are, and we can build on that,” says Versace chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd. “The growth rate over the last five years has been amazing. Seeing the shows and seeing how much the brand has to offer, what we need to do now is to make sure it’s translated into our stores.”
“I just want to make women feel great. To achieve that in an outfit can be very empowering”
Versace’s Asian investments may prove to be perfectly timed. The demand for Italian fashion is undiminished across the continent, and the brand’s Asian customers tend to be younger and more conscious of trends than their Western counterparts. The house’s heritage and Italian craftsmanship are major selling points.
New luxury brands may flood the market but Versace’s chief designer does not regard them as competitors. “There are actually not many brands that have what we have: hotels, home products, perfume,” she says. “And, let’s be honest, New York fashion is not Italian fashion.” That said, Versace cannot hide her admiration for young talent from places other than Italy. For example, she likes JW Anderson for the way it “made a change in fashion and made people think.”
Versace says that as a woman at the forefront of high fashion, she is well-versed in dressing females so they feel strong and sexy. “I just want to make women feel great,” she says. “To achieve that in an outfit can be very empowering.”
Her latest visit to China shows she can amp up the glamor for the brand. Will turnover follow?