Bally orchestrates a total relaunch
"Bally is a startup with 163 years of history," says Frederic de Narp, who took over the reins of "this sleeping beauty" in November 2013 with the mission "to rehabilitate the image" of the historical Swiss shoe brand bought in 2008 by the German group JAB Luxury Division (formerly Labelux) of JAB (Joh. A. Benckiser) Holdings, which also owns Jimmy Choo, Belstaff and Zagliani.
Within months, this former Cartier executive and architect of the revival of the American jeweler Harry Winston had recruited his dream team, surrounding himself with "the best".
One of his first picks was creative director Pablo Coppola, who just debuted his second collection in Milan in September. The veteran of Dior, Tom Ford and Celine has been tasked with giving the house's products a new direction based on the brand's rich traditions with support from an in-house team of fourteen designers.
Other recruits include Brice Baudoin, former Prada and Richemont executive, who took over as president of Bally Asia Pacific. Anne-Marie Gaultier, previously with Galeries Lafayette Group, was hired to lead marketing and communications, with Fabien Baron designing the first advertising campaign. On October 6, Torchiani Giovanni, formerly production director of Rossimoda, who also worked at Sergio Rossi, will take over as head of production in the roll of "vice president manufacturing".
"We were missing a clear direction in recent years, but now JAB Luxury shareholders have decided to invest heavily in the brand and especially over the long term,” explains Frederic de Narp. “We are very lucky because our product fits what emerging countries want, whose customer base is increasingly sophisticated and educated,” he says. The executive hopes to steer the brand to 1 billion dollars (800 million euros) in sales, compared to its current 300 million euros. Shoes and accessories each represent 45% of total sales, while ready-to-wear only accounts for 10%.
"We want to refocus on our core business – clothing is just an expression of the brand's image. We also want to increase women's shoe sales, which now only represents 30% of total sales whereas originally Bally was a brand with 80% of its products for women. Men's product have recently become important, rising to 70%. We would like to get to 50-50," says Frederic de Narp.
After a few years of trial and error, the luxury leather brand is now back on track to move forward. Its headquarters was moved to London last year in the same building that houses Jimmy Choo and Belstaff, with each company retaining its independence. Six months ago, Bally also opened a new showroom in the Via Cadore in Milan, what remains the world's main stage for footwear. Italy is also home to most of the brand's production, also producing its men's dress shoes in a factory in Caslano, Switzerland, near Lugano.
Having reorganized the style, Bally is now tackling the retailing. The brand is currently sold through 400 multibrand clients and 300 single-brand stores, 100 of which are located in airports.
Its biggest market is China, where it has 60 stores. "Our priority is to revive the brand's former splendor in Europe and the United States," says the CEO. "We also want to strengthen China, enter the Japanese market and emerging markets such as Mexico."
Next October 22, the Swiss shoe brand will open its first flagship store in London. The 400-square-meter space is housed in a three-story mansion at 45/46 New Bond Street, designed by architect David Chipperfield. The idea is to open a dozen such Bally houses in major cities. Also in October, Bally will reopen its renovated boutique on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and a new store in the Ginza district of Tokyo.
And October 22 is the launch date for the brand's revamped digital platform with the goal of making Bally an omni-channel retailer.
"The brand's wealth is its long heritage. Our archives in Schönenwerd, where the brand was founded in 1851, contain designs for nearly 35,000 pairs of shoes. Bally has been a pioneer in many fields. In 1870, it had a base in Montevideo. 60 years ago, it had a tannery in Rio de Janeiro. In 1889, it was producing 2 million shoes a year! It was also the first Western luxury brand to enter China in 1986. It is in this spirit that we want to renew the brand, particularly by relying on Bally's unrivaled reputation," concludes Frederic de Narp.
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