It is a fashion house that has long been the sartorial antithesis of subtle — as reflected in its bold designs, sexy silhouettes, splashes of hot colors and abundance of gold.
So it may come as some surprise to learn that the Italian luxury fashion company Versace last week opened a store on a quiet back street in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood with minimal public fanfare.
The new boutique is Versus Versace, the label’s diffusion line, housed in a sleek two-story space filled with sharply lined dresses, gold lion motifs, white mannequins and digital screens.
Described as the rebellious little sister of Versace, Versus has acquired a growing global following in recent years, with devotees drawn to its glamorous and sexy designs as well as its more accessible price tags.
Creative collaborations have further fueled its popularity, with Versus capsule collections by J.W. Anderson and M.I.A., plus the successes of the sell-out creations of Anthony Vaccarello, the recently appointed creative director.
The discreet opening of the Aoyama store marks a significant landmark for Versace. Not only is it the company’s 15th Versus boutique worldwide, it is the first directly operated store to open in Japan since it pulled out of the country in 2009, when it closed all three of its previous Versace outlets.
Those closures reflected a sharp decline in Japan’s once robust luxury goods market, as demand for imported designer clothing dropped against a backdrop of global economic turmoil.
Although Versace returned to the Japan market in 2011 with outlets in department stores, the company is clearly in the throes of a new chapter in terms of its global expansion.
The Aoyama Versus store is the first of three major new store openings planned for Japan in coming months — with a Versace Home boutique and a Versace flagship due to open later this year in Ginza.
The new store opening comes at a time of renewed optimism for the brand. Last year, the family-owned fashion house sold a 20 percent stake to the American private equity group Blackstone for 210 million euros (¥29.4 billion) to help fund its global expansion.
The company subsequently opened more than 40 boutiques last year and recently reported a 16.9 percent increase in revenue in 2014 — and plans to continue the expansion with 30 more openings this year.
Announcing the financial results, Gian Giacomo Ferraris, the chief executive officer, said: “In 2014, Versace performed well despite a tough climate for the luxury industry. We still have considerable growth opportunities which we continue to pursue by developing the business in line with our strategy, especially retail expansion.”
The new Versus store is spearheading the company’s return to Japan. The space — a collaboration between Donatella Versace and the London-based architects Carmody Groarke — fits in perfectly with its upmarket Aoyama neighbors.
The store spans 300 sq. meters across two floors, complete with smoky mirrored panels, gray walls, industrial ceilings, brass fixtures, digital screens and a juice bar.
The clothing collections — women’s on the first floor, men’s upstairs — are defined by sharp silhouettes in black, hot pink and bold abstract prints, plus an abundance of its signature gold lion heads, complete with manes.
Eye-catching pieces include an all-gold leather jacket with “VERSUS” emblazoned across one sleeve, sparkling men’s belts with bold lion-head clasps, plus dresses and accessories adorned with rows of gold safety pins, as inspired by the late founder Gianni Versace’s early designs.
On May 15, Versus will launch its latest Vaccarello-designed collection via a global digital event streamed live worldwide, with the clothing then sold exclusively in Versus stores in Aoyama and London alone until July (or online for customers in the United States and Europe from the time of the launch).
And fans of the label will be reassured to hear that Versace is rumored to be pulling out all the stops to hold a celebrity-packed party at the new Aoyama store to mark the occasion.
Versus Versace, 5-5-4 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
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