Versace in Korea aims to revamp image

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Versace in Korea aims to revamp image

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Versace in Korea is reinventing its image again. The whirlwind of change has not yet blown into the Italian luxury brand’s shops in Seoul department stores, but two new representatives have flown in from Milan ― Isabelle Harviewatt, the worldwide communications manager for Versace, and Deidre Mccready, the international press and PR representative ― are determined to strengthen the Korean market with a born-again, upgraded image.
On May 18, instead of holding a customary press day to unveil the 2006-7 Autumn/Winter collection at an existing Versace store, the executives turned an art gallery, for one day, into what looked like the future of Versace stores in Korea. The minimalist decor included sleek, shiny onyx walls bearing the Versace emblem ― a golden medusa ― and a flatscreen showing the brand’s much praised Milan show. Displayed on black marble tables were a series of women’s “It” bags, which Donatella Versace named the “Club Bag” [shown left]. The bag’s overall shape resembles some of the latest trendy hobo bags but differs in elaborate details ― the front is covered with multiple strips of grainy leather in the shape of a fan, while the smooth lambskin back is smocked. The “Monogram Bag” features a subtle play of the Versace logo on the same color fabric.
Past a small collection of handsome weekend bags and matching shoes for men, the adjacent room held tall glass cases displaying a white fur purse embellished with Swarovsky crystals and limited-edition diamond watches shown in Basel earlier this year, as well as eyewear.
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A one-shoulder evening dress on a mannequin was matched with crystal-studded satin sandals. Pointing at a black A-line coat, Ms. Mccready said, “Look, gone are the heavy and decorative details,” and added, “the coat only comes with a very subtle ‘V’ for Versace over the pocket.”
What’s the brand’s directive here? Led by Giancarlo Di Risio, who took control of Versace’s global operation in 2004, the Italian brand has been shifting its position in terms of its fashion concept, and the new boss wants to make sure his message reaches Asia’s two key markets, Japan and Korea.
A total revamp has already caused the replacement of the Versace chief executive officer in Japan, which is directly controlled by Milan. Unlike Japan, Versace in Korea is operated through a local trading company, Wearfun International, which took the job over from a local agent, around the time of the power transfer in Milan. In Korea, Wearfun is largely responsible for having spruced up the then-moribund Versace. Ms. Harviewatt says more visits this year by Italian executives to Korea will bring about major changes ― in collaboration with its Korean partner.
“We used to be grouped together with Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana, but not anymore. Now the new Versace is all about elegance, toward the Giorgio Armani zone,” said Ms. Harviewatt, who used to work for Giorgio Armani before joining Versace a year ago. Last week was her second visit to Seoul since she accompanied Mr. Armani last year.


by Ines Cho
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