And you thought all that stuff on the runways was enough! Designers – especially, it seems, Italian designers – are busily embracing all sorts of product opportunities beyond the ready-to-wear, from apartment buildings to yachts. Hotels, fashion’s erstwhile favourite diversification initiative, are so yesterday.
What else to make of the fact that both Missoni and Versace have teamed up with Century Properties in Manila to create the interiors of new high-rise developments, and Fendi just completed a boat with Princess Yachts. After all, you know what they say: one example is a fluke; two is a coincidence; but three, well, three’s a trend.
We have trend, people.
“It’s true, the Italian brands seem more interested in extensions of this sort than, say, the French,” said Robbie Antonio, manging director of Century Properties, when we were chatting the other day. Mr Antonio couldn’t speak to the Fendi yacht adventure, but he is the man behind the Versace and Missoni condo deals, and he claims to have a handful more up his well-tailored sleeve. Here’s a rendering of the Versace swimming pool.Century Properties
As to why Italians might be more interested in this sort of thing, he didn’t know – he thought maybe because the French brands were largely owned by luxury conglomerates, who like to do this sort of thing themselves, and the Italians had more of an affinity for homewares. Whatever the reason, he was very pleased with the results. The Versace condo, which started pre-selling last November, broke ground in January, and will be around the third most expensive apartment building in Manila, is already 80% taken. Mr Antonio also said the fashion link-up allowed him to add a 25% premium to his units.
Mr Antonio said he originally thought Versace might be a good partner for the building because they had some experience with hotels – though he also said the Versace Palazzo in Dubai was very “gold”, and he had specifically asked the brand to be sensitive to Philippino tastes, which run to the less blingy. As to whether he had been concerned about, say, non-Versace fans being turned off from the building because of the relationship, he shrugged. “Some people won’t like it,” he said. “But it’s not for them.”
Besides — they can always go for the Missoni.
As to what is in it for the brands, well, an upfront payment for their decorating services, and then a cut of each apartment sold. Also, potentially, some reputational risk – consumers could dislike the building, or feel it makes the brand too accessible – but perhaps Manila is regarded as far enough away from their home territory that it’s a good place for a lucrative experiment (kind of like Hollywood movie stars shilling for pot noodles in Japan). Certainly, Mr Antonio sees lots of possibility not only in the municipal market, but other emerging countries in South East Asia with a taste for Western brands.
Just think of it: Some day, there may be an entire chunk of Manila (or Singapore or Vietnam) that looks like the architectural equivalent of Milan fashion week, and their lucky residents will be able to not just wear the brand, but live in the brand!
Of course, this wouldn’t work for those who like to mix and match their labels, which may be an issue as emerging markets become more mature. Or it may just lead to lots of potentially profitable apartment turnover. It’s just a little harder to change a residence than to change a dress. Isn’t it?
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