Breeze Couture sees Italy investment take off
CNATAIPEI--Breeze Couture, the first Taiwanese business group to buy an Italian fashion brand, is seeing its pioneering investment take off through the establishment of a mechanism that combines Taiwanese management with Italian manufacturing.
February 16, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Italian fashion brand giuliano Fujiwara (gF), which was purchased by Breeze Couture in 2011, attracted much attention at its launch at the 2013 Milan Fashion Week in mid-January, which was held at the Bagatti-Valsecchi Museum.
GF, which started out as a men's fashion brand, was founded by Japanese designer Yoshiaki Fujiwara in Milan in 1986. Breeze Couture, one of Taiwan's major luxury mall operators, bought a 60-percent stake in the brand with NT$1 billion, which was the first investment made in an Italian fashion brand by a Taiwanese group.
The brand, whose designs are sold in Europe, Asia and America, posted about NT$160 million (US$5.52 million) in annual revenues in 2012. Its Milan office currently houses 18 staff members.
Buying gF was a bold decision and a very stressful move, Breeze Couture General Manager Katie Tsai told CNA in Milan. “Breeze is always trying what others have not tried,” she said.
The company decided to invest in gF after learning from Hong Kong actress Carina Lau that the brand was looking for a buyer, Tsai said.
Managing a brand took a whole team, she noted. Although Breeze is experienced in department store operations and brand franchising, “direct operations of a brand still posed a new challenge. We were running an Italian brand, not a Taiwanese one.”
The biggest challenge she came across during the process of collaboration was culture shock. “The Italian people value family very much. Work is not everything for them. They get off work or go on a vacation as soon as the time bell rings,” she said.
For example, local workers had proceeded on a month-long leave last August and all work was halted as Tsai was preparing for the Milan show. “I had heard about that before, but I was still surprised when it actually happened.”
Tsai often had to get in touch with the Italian staff late in the night due to the time difference and both the cultural and time gaps often made her anxious. Some of the Italian workers tended to let their imagination run wild, Tsai added, terming it a common character trait in Italy and attributing it to the nature of the fashion industry they worked in.
“The most important role Breeze has played is management that helps to keep things more organized, make a schedule and task assignment, as well as manage finance.”
While the Italians gradually got used to the Taiwanese management's style, Tsai is also very satisfied with their products. “The work they do is indeed guaranteed for quality.”
Breeze plans to introduce the high quality of Italian fashion to Asia. “To reach that goal, we moved all production lines back here, all made in Italy.”
Despite the fluctuation in the global economy, Tsai showed confidence in gF's expansion in Asia. In addition to the two flagship stores in Taipei and Shanghai, “Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong are all very interested in our shoes and accessories,” she said.
Although the luxury goods market had grown slowly, there were still many wealthy consumers in Asia that wanted to buy “good stuff,” Tsai noted.