Versace sticks to European heritage in Asia

Top Italian fashion house Versace is vowing to stick to its European heritage despite rapid expansion in Asia with the region's growing taste for luxury.

The brand has no plans to develop products tailor-made for the Asian market, said the group's chief executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris during a visit to Singapore.

Mr Ferraris was here last week for the official opening of Versace's newest boutique in Paragon mall on Orchard Road.

The 187 sq m store boasts a mosaic floor inspired by Rome's 9th century Byzantine churches.

It also has a store at Marina Bay Sands, and a Young Versace corner - which carries its line for children - at Takashimaya.

Its Singapore operations come under the purview of Versace Singapore, a joint venture between locally based fashion retailer Kwang Sia and Versace.

The Asia-Pacific market now contributes about a third of the group's global revenues, which have doubled since new management took over in 2009. The Versace group, which has 140 points of sale across the Asia-Pacific region, expects global sales to be about €$500 million (S$847.7 million) this year - up from €$260 million in 2009.

Mr Ferraris said: "Many people have asked how the Asian consumer is different, but in reality, there is no difference... much of Asia is moving towards a first-world economy and Asian tastes are very similar to those in Europe." He was previously chief executive of the Jil Sander Group and has over 20 years of experience in luxury goods.

Mr Giuseppe Oliveri, the group's Asia Pacific managing director, said: "Our main challenge in Asia lies in educating our customers about the brand's heritage."

The company moved from a distribution model - selling its products through a supplier - to direct sales, in order to convey its "distinctive DNA" more easily to customers, he added.

The fashion house, renowned for its iconic prints in striking colours, was founded by Gianni Versace in 1978 and remains fully owned by the Versace family. The brand has had a presence in Singapore since 1979.

"Singapore is a hub, not just for the economy but also for fashion and tourism," said Mr Ferraris. The group aims to grow its presence in emerging Asian markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

"We are expanding our presence here because Singapore is important for tapping the rest of the region," said Mr Ferraris.

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