Landmark venture as Joyce sets up shop to house Prada classics

PRADA - the accessory brand favoured by the Italian aristocracy for nearly a century - is soon to be available in Hongkong, under an agreement with Joyce.

Joyce plans to convert its boutique on the second floor of The Landmark to house Prada collections.

The shop will be owned and managed by the Joyce Jipi company - set up solely for this purpose and the opening is scheduled for the end of June.

Under the direction of its founder's grand-daughter, Ms Miuccia Bianchi Prada, the company has created a niche for itself in fashion accessories.

Ms Prada, despite having previously little to do with fashion - she has a degree in political science and has attended mime school - decided to combine exquisite design and craftsmanship with high-quality materials.

This established the firm as one of the leaders in the accessory field.

But Prada has also recently emerged as a force in European ready-to-wear fashion.

Colours for spring and summer range from dusty pastels to mousse au chocolat. Styles are retrospective but retain a '90s feel.

A super-stylised, midriff-baring ''hippie'' look prevails, which includes body-skimming maxi-tunics over pants, double-visions of skirts and harem pants, and sexy bustiers.

e managing director Mr Roberto Dominici said the signing of the Prada franchise ''was a combination of two factors''. The first, he said was that ''both Joyce and Prada believed a joint venture, where the retailer participated with equal financial resources and enthusiasm, was the best possible formula for success''.

e second was that Joyce was a fashion retailer and Prada had expanded into fashion.

Mr Patrizio Bertelli, chief executive officer of Prada and husband of Ms Prada, was in Hongkong recently to launch the new venture.

''We are most popular for our shoes and bags,'' he said. ''I suppose the nylon Prada bags sell in the biggest quantities.

''I have an obsession with quality. I seek out the best factories and the most technologically advanced people to make our products.

''This direct control over operations and quality makes it very difficult to become extremely rich.

''There might be short cuts, but if you care about your product you don't take them.'' Mr Bertelli was manufacturing leather goods before he met Ms Prada, and brought his expertise to the business.

The couple started working together in 1978 and married in 1988.

''Yes, it is difficult when you work every day of the year together, but what makes its possible to survive as a couple is that two days of the week she is in Milan and I am near Florence,'' he said.

Mr Bertelli described the Prada woman as one who had a sense of history.

''When she buys something, it is not just because she is aware of the beauty of it, but because she knows the evolution of fashion, ''She is an active woman, which doesn't necessarily mean a working woman.

''She might be rich but she is never ostentatious about her wealth, the quiet wealth of a contemporary woman.

''The average age of our customers is 30.''