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As the company feted the opening of its overhauled flagship here last week — timed to coincide with the city’s international furniture and design exhibition, the Salone del Mobile — ceo Matteo Sinigaglia outlined the brand’s development strategy for the coming years. Asia, and China in particular, figure prominently in those plans, with a target of opening 30 stores in China over the next two years through a new joint venture. Expansion will continue in other key markets as well. For example, the first Replay store in Miami is scheduled to be open by early next month.
The revamped Milan flagship, said Sinigaglia, represents the store concept Replay will look to bring to other parts of the world.
“Emotion is at the heart of the new store concept,” said Sinigaglia in his first interview with WWD since taking the helm of the company in December.
Located in a prime shopping street near the city’s cathedral, the 8,640-square-foot store is modeled after an eco-friendly concept store Replay opened in Florence last summer. The concept will be rolled out globally, first to Paris and Barcelona, and adapted to corners worldwide.
Sinigaglia succeeded former ceo Gaetano Sallorenzo when Equibox Holding SpA, a special-purpose acquisition vehicle, acquired a 60 percent stake in Fashion Box SpA, owner of the Replay, We Are Replay and Replay & Sons denim and sportswear labels, last December. Fashion Box Group SpA, a holding company owned by the family of the late Claudio Buziol, who founded Replay in 1978, retained the remaining 40 percent of the company. Equibox Holding is controlled by Matteo and Massimo Sinigaglia, who were partners in the Replay footwear business. Former Equibox partner Wolfgang Friedrichs has exited the company.
“We wanted to create a regenerating space in balance with nature,” said Sinigaglia of the Milan store. Replay has recently been more attentive to sustainability, first spearheaded by Sallorenzo, finding alternative solutions to heating and cooling its stores and developing more ecological washes, such as the Just Add Water styles, which hit shelves last September.
Although the owners of the Milan building housing the store built a new facade, enclosing an existing square, a designer staircase and other boutiques to create a new luxury venue, the Replay store did not expand its selling space. However, the impression is one of a much larger store, benefitting from more natural light.
Supervised by the brand’s creative director Gigi Vezzola, the store concept centers on ecological themes such as water, fire and earth. A green area, with imposing 36-foot vertical gardens, was conceived as “a welcoming break,” said Sinigaglia.
“In a market that strives to display as much product as possible, Replay is going against stream, offering a new conceptual solution,” he said.
Other elements include a waterfall, a suspended platform on the greenery, wood flooring and iron fixtures. Merchandise is displayed on shelves as high as 19 feet, accenting the spaciousness of the flagship, which first opened in 1999 and has been closed for the renovation for a year.
Retail expansion is a priority for the company. In December, Replay signed a joint venture with Alan Fang’s Toppy Group to open 30 stores in China over the next two years — adding to the existing 26 banners in that region. A fourth store is slated to open in Hong Kong by the end of the year and one in Hanoi, Vietnam, will open in the spring. This season, a sales point just opened in Singapore.
“We are going for maximum qualification, rather than mere expansion,” noted Sinigaglia.
Replay hopes to capitalize on Sinigaglia’s own experience in Asia to fuel growth. He lived in Hong Kong for 18 years and, as a longtime partner with the brand prior to the acquisition, he is familiar with Replay’s heritage.
The company counts 220 stores and its brands are available at 5,000 points of sale around the world. However, poor global economic conditions have taken a toll. Revenues for the Asolo, Italy-based company fell to 272 million euros, or $379.2 million at average exchange, last year from 305 million euros, or $448.6 million, the previous year.
Sinigaglia said he is “very optimistic” about future prospects, banking on maintaining a consistent image while raising the quality bar. The company presented a men’s premium denim capsule collection called Red Seal at Berlin’s Bread & Butter exhibition in January, made with extremely fine Japanese denim only, woven on Japanese looms, entirely made in Italy, and traditionally finished by hand. Retailing at 299 euros, or $403 at current exchange, Red Seal will be selectively distributed. Sinigaglia said that Replay will introduce a women’s equivalent, White Seal, for spring-summer 2011.
“Glamour and beauty are the keywords for White Seal,” said Sinigaglia.