Fred­eric de Narp Talks Growth, Brand Strat­egy in Tokyo

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY KELLY WETHERILLE

TOKYO — Bally launched its lat­est artist col­lab­o­ra­tion at its flag­ship in Ginza here on Wed­nes­day, unveiling a se­ries of lim­it­ededi­tion prod­ucts while host­ing the open­ing of an ex­hi­bi­tion by Lon­don-based street artist Shok-1. The project is the se­cond in a se­ries of artist col­lab­o­ra­tions cu­rated by mu­sic pro­ducer Kasseem Dean, who goes by the name Swizz Beatz.

Frédéric de Narp, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Swiss brand, be­gan his ca­reer in Ja­pan and still re­tains a high level of ad­mi­ra­tion for the coun­try and its cul­ture. He said that his de­ci­sion to have a cre­ative col­lec­tive — rather than a sin­gle cre­ative di­rec­tor — head Bally’s de­sign ac­tiv­i­ties was in­spired by the coun­try he once called home.

“This cre­ative col­lec­tive mind­set, for me, was born in Ja­pan. This is what I wanted to learn from the Ja­panese cul­ture, what be­longs to the Ja­panese cul­ture, and what the Ja­panese are the best at,” he said. “This sort of re­spect and work­ing to­gether as a group, it’s a cliché, but it is true. And it’s not a fact of a one-woman show or a one-man show. It’s a fact of a group, and I be­lieve in this, es­pe­cially for a brand that has this kind of strength and val­ues.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and mu­tual re­spect are not the only val­ues de Narp ad­mires about Ja­panese cul­ture. He also main­tains that, even now, the mar­ket re­mains at the epi­cen­ter of the lux­ury goods in­dus­try.

“Still to­day there is no other coun­try or pop­u­la­tion rec­og­niz­ing and hav­ing the level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion [of Ja­pan] to rec­og­nize and care for what’s be­hind the prod­uct,” he said. “And that’s the essence of lux­ury. We work tire­lessly for hours to de­velop crafts­man­ship around our prod­ucts to deliver the qual­ity. And here the Ja­panese do rec­og­nize that and care for that. And that’s unique to Ja­pan.”

De Narp said he plans to con­tinue work­ing with Dean on col­lab­o­ra­tions with other artists, and that Bally will be launch­ing two such col­lec­tions each year mov­ing for­ward. It is one el­e­ment of the ex­ec­u­tive’s on­go­ing re­brand­ing of the house, and one that he says makes sense given its his­tory.

“Bally, I have dis­cov­ered through the [brand’s] her­itage, has had this art of col­lab­o­ra­tion for a cen­tury. In

1927, I dis­cov­ered how much Bally was col­lab­o­rat­ing with Robert Mal­let-Stevens, the founder of the mod­ernists, or Le Cor­bus­ier, or even Roger Vivier or even Pierre Cardin. Bally has col­lab­o­rated with amaz­ing brands and cre­ative minds, and the fact of re­do­ing this art of col­lab­o­ra­tion with Swizz Beatz, for ex­am­ple, last year and this year again, these are el­e­ments that con­trib­ute to elec­trify the brand,” he said. “If Bally is the old­est Swiss brand and the only ex­ist­ing Swiss [lux­ury fash­ion] brand, with 168 years of his­tory and every­thing, it is quite ex­cit­ing to ex­cite and cre­ate a de­sir­abil­ity through these col­lab­o­ra­tions that al­low us to do much more. To go be­yond any fron­tiers, to go be­yond bound­aries with the art world, con­nect­ing with the artists. And that is re­ally con­tribut­ing to chang­ing the per­cep­tion of the brand to a younger au­di­ence.”

As Bally tar­gets new, younger cus­tomers along with its his­tor­i­cal clients, its busi­ness has been ex­pand­ing world­wide. De Narp said that the United States is its largest growth mar­ket, with dou­ble-digit in­creases the past two years. Ja­pan is se­cond, with dou­ble-digit growth last year and sin­gle-digit growth this year. So it is not sur­pris­ing that the 8,600-square-foot Ginza store is the brand’s largest in the world, and that its most sig­nif­i­cant col­lab­o­ra­tion in decades would be launched here.

“Open­ing this store close to two and a half years ago at the gate of Ginza had lots of mean­ing for me. The gate of Ginza, the gate of the most im­por­tant busi­ness and fash­ion district in the world [is at] this lo­ca­tion,” he said. “And now as we are cre­at­ing trac­tion with this brand and de­vel­op­ing it all over the world, I thought it was fit­ting that the epi­cen­ter of this de­vel­op­ment could start in Ja­pan.”

Look­ing for­ward, de Narp has more big plans for the brand, this time fo­cus­ing on other mar­kets. By sum­mer of 2019,

Bally will open a store at the cor­ner of

Via Mon­te­napoleone and Via Alessan­dro Man­zoni in Mi­lan. The three-story, 5,900-square-foot space will be the brand’s first flag­ship in Italy.

“Mon­te­napoleone in Mi­lan is re­ally the cap­i­tal of fash­ion, and to have a state­ment flag­ship open­ing there is just mag­nif­i­cent for us,” de Narp said.

Also be­fore next sum­mer, the brand will open its first flag­ship in China, at Bei­jing’s China World com­plex. That store will mea­sure roughly 6,460 square feet over two floors, with a large fa­cade fac­ing the street.

De Narp said the Bei­jing store will be an im­por­tant step for Bally, but that it is not the only way to reach po­ten­tial Chi­nese cus­tomers.

“Seventy-five per­cent of the growth [of the lux­ury goods in­dus­try] of the last 15 years came from the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion con­sum­ing lux­ury goods around the world, and I think 75 per­cent of the growth mov­ing for­ward for the next 15 years will come from China again,” the ex­ec­u­tive said. “But travel is huge and will not stop. If you think that in 2000 you had 30 mil­lion Chi­nese trav­el­ing around the world, in 2015 you had 120 mil­lion Chi­nese trav­el­ing; in 2030, my own sta­tis­tics would tell me that around 240 to 260 mil­lion Chi­nese will travel. Just take these num­bers, and imag­ine the im­pact on the world’s con­sump­tion of lux­ury com­ing from the Chi­nese.”

In ad­di­tion to in­creas­ing its women’s of­fer­ing from just 20 per­cent of its col­lec­tion four years ago to 40 per­cent

The Bally chief launched a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lon­don street artist Shok-1.

now, Bally’s brand strat­egy that de Narp has honed over the past two years in­cludes a more ex­clu­sive em­pha­sis on ca­su­al­wear.

“When you do a brand strat­egy, it’s very im­por­tant to know where you want to be or what you want to be­come, but it is just as rel­e­vant to be able to iden­tify what are the things you don’t want to be,” he said. “And we de­cided we’re not a red car­pet brand. That’s it. You can’t be every­thing to everyone, and that’s not our choice.”

Be­cause of this, de Narp said he has been pleased to see the lines be­tween lux­ury fash­ion and streetwear con­tinue to blur.

“For me it’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for the com­pany, be­cause I don’t have to in­vent it,” he said. “We are more ca­sual, ev­ery­day. This is where we are set to win and this is where we want to be­long, much more than the red car­pet.”

This last point il­lus­trates Bally’s in­clu­siv­ity, which de Narp said is one of its three core val­ues, along with au­then­tic­ity and what he refers to as “fair­ness,” an el­e­ment that has to do with pric­ing.

“The Mil­len­ni­als and Mil­len­ni­als-at­heart are aware of every­thing through dig­i­tal, and they want to buy good prod­ucts at a good price,” he said. “This is what I call fair­ness. Not abus­ing the sys­tem and s---ting on the client and pump­ing prices where it’s not jus­ti­fied.”

Frédéric de Narp

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