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Giada’s Italian Luxury Charms China

 

With precise silhouettes and a careful mix of wools, silks and new synthetics, Giada is a sophisticated yet disarmingly simple label. Inspired by fine art and classic icons like Audrey Hepburn, Giada designer Rosanna Daolio set out to build a brand distinguished by “luxury, minimalism and quality texture.”

Born into a middle class Florentine family, Daolio picked up an affinity for the arts at an early age courtesy of her parents’ bohemian circle. She went on to work for Emanuel Ungaro and hit her stride in the ’80s with Max Mara. In 1992 Daolio left to start Giada and by 2001 had taken the fledgling brand as far as Milan before everything suddenly changed in 2005.

A friend introduced her to Red Stone, the Chinese company responsible for bringing brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo into China. The timing was fortuitous: Red Stone was just then shopping around for a new Italian brand. Daolio signed on and took her first trip to China, visiting Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. It was a journey that clarified the hugeness of China’s growing market. “In Milan, Louis Vuitton opens one shop; in Beijing, Louis Vuitton opens three shops,” she gushed.

In the few intervening years, Giada has opened an impressive 28 boutiques in China, alongside marquee names such as Gucci and Dior—the label’s flagship even sits in Hong Kong’s prestigious The Landmark complex. Sales turnover increases steadily, notching at least 10% each year and making Giada one of the fastest growing luxury brands in China. By contrast, Giada has yet to open a single boutique in Daolio’s native Italy. A Milan store is being negotiated for 2011, but those in the world’s other fashion capitals still have at least another five years of eager anticipation.

Average shoppers may not know what they’re missing, but you can bet that key players in the global fashion industry do. The all-star credit list from Giada’s new a/w ’09-’10 campaign includes David James (creative director), Solve Sundsbo (photographer), Marie Chaix (stylist), and Sasha Pivovarova (model). The collection suitably features trim pencil skirts, tapered pants, gentle blouses and sharp coats in mostly black and gray, with accents of regal reds and purples or softer pinks and mauves. Daolio calls it “The right blend of inventive and classic modern,” noting that: “A higher-than-average budget allows Giada to work with the world’s top models and photography teams.” The collection’s images (previewed alongside this article) will grace the priority pages of top Chinese fashion magazines such as Vogue China and Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong.

Despite this jet-setting team and scope, Daolio affirms that her brand is still fundamentally Italian. Much of the production continues to take place in Italy or, if elsewhere, is “up to Italian standards.” Textiles, selected with a careful eye towards refinement, are sourced from Italy and neighboring Western European countries. “The art-culture is born in Italy and, thanks to the environment in which I grew up, I learned to recognize in fashion the magic of the great works of art. That has influenced my creativity,” Daolio explained.

Only the brand’s name, chosen over a decade before the chance meeting with Red Stone, gives away its worldly ambitions. “Giada” is the Italian word for jade, that beguiling green stone most famously linked to none other than China.

—Rebecca Milner