Successful brand targets the young and the group is planning a major regional expansion next year The glowing red oval that recently made its mark in Mong Kok's Langham Place looks like the logo of an exciting new brand for trend-savvy teens. The text beneath the bold white letters that spell out its name reveals that edc, which started in 1998 as a line for young patrons, is part of the fashion group Esprit. The launch of the 2,400 sqft store in April dovetailed with the recent appointment of Wolfram Hail as Esprit's Asia-Pacific president. He can draw on his own wide-ranging experience in the retail trade to help bring the brand into its own. 'The decision was taken two years ago to make edc [by Esprit] a standalone business. The brand had been called edc [by Esprit] from the first day. Some day, the Esprit part will disappear,' he said. With 53 stores across the region, edc by Esprit is following in the footsteps of its parent company, opening up in all the countries where Esprit has an established presence. These include the mainland, where there are 33 stores, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. And the opening of a store in Hong Kong, where the group's regional head office is based, could be a brand-building operation, as the city continues to be a regional trendsetter for style. 'Hong Kong is basically the yardstick by which we measure the region,' Mr Hail said. 'What's good in Hong Kong tends to be good for other Asian markets. So the market is very directional in that sense and that's why it is good to have our regional head office in Hong Kong.' The 20 edc stores planned for the next year in Asia will probably grow with the same momentum that Esprit rose from a San Francisco-based fashion house into a retail conglomerate, with key bases in Hong Kong and Germany. Listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Esprit is expanding by almost 20 per cent annually, posting double-digit figures. And edc by Esprit epitomises the company's appetite for new markets with style-hungry shoppers. Product lines, most of which are T-shirts, shirts, blouses, jeans and trousers based on a casual ready-to-wear street style, are locally tweaked and renewed in different styles every two weeks. There's a new look to the store every month to refresh the shopping experience, and a branding strategy that matches the youthful vibe of the edc by Esprit consumer who is 'mentally 18 years old'. The bulk of Esprit's market is in Europe, but with Asia home to a much 'younger minded' consumer, and where shopping is an established pastime, edc by Esprit has been well received. 'You build a brand by building a store,' Mr Hail said. 'In this industry, a brand is usually only hot for a couple of years. The thing about Esprit is that we are able to keep things growing and we are very good at adapting. Most stores work in seasons, but we work in months, so the pace of this company is much faster.' Marketing events for edc by Esprit include hip-hop dancers outside the Langham Place store and tie-ups with the music media - for the first time Esprit is the sole sponsor of the MTV Asia Awards 2008 Malaysia. But, as the group reaches out to a younger demographic, it is also going through global restructuring that naturally creates opportunities for international mobility among its staff. 'The company has merged its businesses across the globe,' Mr Hail said. 'Before that, the team in Asia only did an Asian collection, the European team only did a European collection, and so forth. Now, you can work here and in other countries. That's part of being a global company. When we find talent in Australia, for example, we make sure we keep that talent and then move it around.' Training prepares staff for the synergy of 650 stores worldwide, with 300 in the region. This includes understanding planning software that makes sense of company data, and nurturing entrepreneurship in staff to drive the expansion of the group into new markets with positions that include retailers, merchandising managers, wholesalers and store designers. Esprit employs 1,200 people in Hong Kong, from design and sourcing to retailing and finance. But with dynamic global and regional growth, the hunt is on for a well-educated workforce that is ready to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. 'We are looking for people with good formal education who are willing to get their hands dirty with fashion,' Mr Hail said. 'Every store manager, for example, has a sizeable business to run. He needs to learn management know-how - how to manage people, how to hire them and how to praise them. Things that you don't really learn at school.'