Stella International Takes on LVMH to Expand in Paris

Stella International Holdings Ltd., the Asian shoemaker that manufactures for companies such as Prada SpA, plans to expand its own brands in Paris, turning into a lower priced competitor to luxury clients there.

The contract manufacturer plans to add two shops in Paris by end of this year and expand into other locations in Europe, Stephen Chi, chief executive officer of the company’s women’s footwear and retail business division, said in a July 10 phone interview. The company, which was founded in Taiwan and trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange, already has one Paris store.

In the world’s fashion capital, Stella faces larger and better known labels including Prada and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA. Both companies’ brands are clients of Stella’s contract manufacturing business, according to its website. Western brands have rushed into the Chinese market to grab a slice of the country’s luxury market to tap rising incomes. Stella, which had about 400 stores in China as of March, would be bucking that trend to expand in the opposite direction.

“We want to be an international brand,” Chi said. “We want to build a global platform and bring affordable luxury for women around the world.”

Its first European store in Paris specializes in women’s shoes priced between 250 euros to 600 euros ($327-$785), about a third the cost of a pair of Prada pumps.

Miu Miu

Established in Taiwan in 1982, Stella has been making shoes for luxury brands such as LVMH’s Givenchy. The footwear maker doesn’t aim to compete with luxury clients like Givenchy, Chi said.

After years of manufacturing for luxury brands, it wants to leverage the experience to design and produce shoes under its own brands, he said.

“We are not Prada, Givenchy or Miu Miu,” he said. “We just want to be the best brand possible in terms of quality and price.”

Stella shares dropped 0.7 percent to close at HK$19.12 in Hong Kong trading today after rising as much as 1.8 percent earlier in the day.

Prada didn’t comment on its relationship with Stella and an official for LVMH didn’t immediately return calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

Stella also manufactures for casual footwear companies such as Clarks, ECCO, Rockport and Timberland. Manufacturing accounted for the bulk of its business, or about 92 percent of its $1.55 billion total revenue in 2012.

The company expects its retail business will account for 20 percent of total revenue in five years as it opens more shops and expands into other categories such as handbags and accessories. It also expects the retail business to keep growing in “double digits” for this year, Chi said.

The shoemaker in 2006 started selling its self-developed “Stella Luna” and “What For” brands in mainland China, and recently introduced “JKJY” brand. Retail revenue gained 21 percent to $119.4 million in 2012 and its contribution to the company’s total revenue rose to 7.7 percent from 6.6 percent a year earlier.

Parisians are very demanding on quality and design, said Chi, who is also an executive director and the chief designer at the company. “If we can be successful in Paris, we’ll have a much easier task anywhere else.”

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