Sep 22, 2014

    Krizia's tradition to stay, says new boss


    ZHU Chongyun, the glamorous Chinese entrepreneur and designer who has taken over Krizia, has vowed to maintain the historic fashion house's made-in-Italy heritage.

    Zhu, who bought the stricken brand from iconic founder Mariuccia Mandelli earlier this year, outlined her plans in an interview in Milan during the spring/summer 2015 womenswear shows.

    All being well, she will be back in the city in five months to present a debut collection of womenswear for fall/winter of next year, but a launch date has still to be confirmed. "We hope it will be in February," she said.

    Zhu, who is based in Shenzhen, spent last week in Italy's fashion capital, taking in the shows and putting together a creative team that will, under her leadership, be charged with reviving a brand that has fallen on hard times in recent years.

    The willowy Zhu has also been cutting a dash on the fashion-week cocktail circuit, thanks to her slim figure and youthful beauty that defy her status as a 50-year-old mother of two.

    "She's a walking advert for staying out of the sun and not drinking alcohol," said an admiring Krizia insider. "And it is obvious that she is a really strong woman, just like Mariuccia. You can see why she was attracted to the brand."

    Zhu's takeover is being marked by a multimedia exhibition hosted jointly by the city of Milan and Italy's national fashion chamber.

    Backed by some of the country's most influential fashion publications, the exhibition is part tribute to Mandelli's heritage as a pioneering female force in the industry, part welcome for Zhu and partly an exercise in reassuring everyone that Krizia's tradition will not be compromised as a result of the switch to Chinese ownership.

    Invitations to the exhibition's opening included a message from Zhu, outlining her vision for the brand: "Krizia's identity will not change in substance, but will simply be updated to a contemporary sensibility.

    "My fashion is aimed at independent women who have their own well-defined opinions and ideas, who live their lives in their own way, with curiosity and humour, and who, above all, can never be taken for granted."

    She added: "We want to keep the tradition of Krizia, but obviously we will have more creativity, something more, something fresh."

    As it is a private company, it is unclear how much financial trouble Krizia was in before Zhu stepped in. But it is understood the sale was concluded for around US$35 million (S$44 million), a figure that will look a snip if the company, which has a claim to having invented hot pants, can be restored to its former glory.

    Zhu arrived in Milan with a back story that is unique in its own way, but also akin to the tales of dogged determination behind many of the Italian fashion industry's greatest success stories.

    Born in Hangzhou to teacher parents, she gained a degree in electronic engineering and worked in industry and then food marketing, before deciding to move to Shenzhen on her own in the early 90s, in pursuit of her dream of a career in high-end style.

    After working for a company producing silk garments for 18 months, she persuaded friends to back her vision and help finance the establishment of her company, Shenzhen Marisfrolg Fashion.

    Within barely a year, she had two wholesale outlets in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and, two decades on, the brand has 400 shops, 4,000 employees and sales of over US$400 million a year.

    With her arrival in Milan, Zhu has achieved much of what she dreamed of, although she insisted she is far from finished. "I love fashion, it's my passion and I want to continue on this road," she said.