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Von Furstenberg has been in Asia for two weeks — as tourist, award recipient, businesswoman and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America — and there is still plenty to see and do. "I am totally impressed and excited — totally impressed," said the designer, who has become an ardent admirer of the region, especially Beijing. "I haven't ever been this impressed about anything — to witness what they are building in Beijing — from the Opera House to Rem Koolhaas' TV tower and the Aquatic Center and the Bird's Nest — it's like nothing I have ever seen before. I know that people say they are building for the Olympics, but really they are building for eternity. It's like being in ancient Egypt during the time of the pharaohs — this is something that happens every two millennia."
In Asia, the enthusiasm is mutual. Three years ago, there were no von Furstenberg shops in the region. Today, there are six, including three in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, one in Jakarta and the newest addition in Shanghai. David Ting, president and chief executive officer of Globalluxe Ltd., which operates the brand in Asia, said more stores are in the works.
"We will be in Macau at the Four Seasons in late spring, opening Beijing in mid-2008, we're confirming a location in Taiwan and we're opening a second shop in Jakarta," said Ting, who added the company is also looking into China's secondary markets. "It will be gradual — we want to wait for demand before going in. But we're lucky because Diane's collection is never 'heavy,' even in fall-winter. It's perfect for the more tropical climates."
Von Furstenberg agrees with the strategy. "We will grow at a pace that's most healthy for the brand. We're not going to exploit the market. I don't want to be a brand colonizer. I want to appeal to the emotion of women," she said.