10 Questions for Behnaz Kanani

The London-based designer talks about why luxury will always survive.

6. How has the global recession affected your business?

BK: We cannot ignore the economic climate. Everyone seems to be scared — some with real reason and some because they’re being negatively influenced by others’ fears. We work with very high-end boutiques worldwide that are aware that they need to continue providing [their customers] with avant-garde, high-quality collections with a point of difference. The bottom line is that we, [as designers], need to continue to be creative without losing integrity. And [the retailers] need to continue to invest and provide for their key customers. For our brand, if the global economy had not been in a crisis, we would have expected higher sales right now.

7. As a smaller brand, do you feel more vulnerable to the unstable climate?

BK: The large players have been hit much harder. Although they have greater market share and selling power, they have been faced with sales cuts and severe cash-flow dangers. Smaller players have benefited from their greater ability to adapt to severe and sudden market changes.

8. Are you facing any resistance to your prices?

BK: In our case, it is not about pressure to reduce prices. The market segment we target is less price-sensitive than the rest. However, the luxury footwear industry has grown a lot, with the number of designers [who occupy this space] doubling in the last five years. [Therefore], the vast offerings in the market puts pressure on the competition.

9. Do you think even luxury customers have a ceiling on price?

BK: If a customer is going for real luxury, there’s no compromise, so price is really not an issue. When I first launched my brand I had in mind the very rich, who appreciate and desire the best and most exclusive product. Nevertheless, we would like to satisfy everyone out there at some point in the future, but for now, we’ll stay with our integrity of high quality and craftsmanship, with the consequence of being a brand for a few who are not cash-poor.

10. What’s next for your brand?

BK: Next month, exclusives by Behnaz Kanani will launch in Harrods in London. For fall ’09, I have introduced a marine fossil logo that’s featured as a metal tab on the heel of every shoe. For spring ’10, I’m adding a shorter heel, as well as a capsule collection of bags. I also am hoping to open my first store in London in 2010.


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