Villalba on the hunt for investor, to expand product offer
Spanish clothing company Villalba is entering a new era following a rebrand. Last year, coinciding with its first presentation in Paris, Alfredo Villalba became just ‘Villalba’. The house founded in 1976 dropped its designer’s first name and launched a new online store featuring its new brand identity. The family business now plans to expand its product offer and welcome a new investor next year, putting a particular focus on China and Paris.
Inspired by 1970s punk fashion, the brand combines elements from both ready-to-wear and Haute Couture to position itself internationally as a “luxury, high-end brand with couture at the centre of its creative DNA, presenting two collections per season: a Demi-Couture and a very sophisticated ready-to-wear,” designer Diego Villalba explains. He adds that the price range will reflect both formulas, while the product offer will be wider than that of Haute Couture brands with 80 to 90 pieces per collection.
Recently, Villalba has been forced to rethink its business strategy. “The Mexican, Russian and Middle Eastern markets were key to the luxury industry and were very important for the the brand. After experiencing declines recently, we have decided to make a more ‘wearable’ offer and bring down prices,” Diego Villalba continues. As part of this new strategy, Paris, where it sells its designs via its MC2 Diffusion showroom, will become a key priority for the firm. “For us it is fundamental to establish ourselves in Paris. It is possibly the most expensive and competitive market, but we rather dream big,” the designer says.
Currently available at the luxury concept store Montaigne Market in Paris, Villalba has also a presence at Smart Femme in Lyon, Peri A in Los Angeles and TNT Woman in Toronto. The brand is also available in select retailers in China, Serbia and the island of Saint Barth, as well as on its own e-commerce shop. “We see e-commerce as a way of communicating rather than just doing sales. We believe this will improve in the future, but prices seem to influence online sales a lot. It is essential to make a name for ourselves so that consumers take that step,” the continues.
Meanwhile, Spain is far from being a priority for Villalba. “The market is stuck in the low-cost mentality, people would not consider spending 1,500 euros on a jacket, except for weddings. And I don’t see my business living off just that,” Villalba says. But the company is also moving forward in its home country. After closing a boutique in Malaga due a decline in Russian and Middle Eastern tourists, Villalba has relocated its iconic Madrid store.
The new space is located at 68 Calle Serrano, moving from its previous unit at 87 Calle Serrano. Spreading over 300 square metres of space, the store includes a studio where customers can opt for a tailoring service, which accounts for the majority of the company’s sales in Spain. “Our goal in Madrid is to maintain our loyal customers and try to attract new ones, but we know there will be a level of complexity that we will have to face,” Diego Villalba says about the niche Spanish business.
The Madrid-based firm does not release its financial figures but sees 2019 as a year of growth. “We are a family business, if we want to grow and develop the brand we will need an investor,” Diego Villalba says, stating that the family “will never sell a majority stake”. The project, which is expected to complete within the next six months, is already underway. “We are in negotiations with investors in China. After a few meetings, we have seen great interest in our project. For us, it will be key for the investor to have good connections to help us drive the distribution strategy we want.” And after raising capital, there is a diversification plan in the works, with the brand eyeing new categories such as accessories, footwear and even its own fragrances.
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