Italian vintage clothing brand eyes MidEast expansion

Franklin & Marshall co-founder Giuseppe Albarelli.

Franklin & Marshall, the Italian clothing brand that takes its name from a US college, plans to open up to ten stores in the Gulf as it looks to expand its international footprint, its co-founder has told Arabian Business.

The firm, which currently has two outlets in Dubai and one in Kuwait, is in talks with several department stores, including House of Fraser and Galeries Lafayette, to grow the brand in the region, said Giuseppe Albarelli.

“The Middle East is very interesting for us, for several reasons,” he said. “We know the situation in Europe and we know which countries have potential [because] of their good economical situation.

“There is a taste for Western brands in the Middle East and 50 percent of the population is under the age of 30, so for us it could be a perfect market in terms of brand and those that can afford it,” he added.

Italian designers Albarelli and Andrea Pensiero established the clothing brand after finding an old Franklin & Marshall top in a New York flea market in the late 1990s.

The firm, which had sales of around US$61m last year, has a licence agreement with the US-based college to use its name. It is popular among 15 to 30-year olds in Europe for its vintage-college-style clothing.

The clothing company is ramping up its expansion across Europe, where it generates around 90 percent of its sales, along with the Middle East, Brazil and Asia, said Albarelli. It hopes to increase its number of stores from 1,200 to 1,700 in the next five years, he added.

Franklin & Marshall opened its third outlet in the GCC in Dubai Mall in October 2012 in partnership with the Kuwait-based Al Homaizi Group.

“In the next five years we’d like ten stores, mainly in the GCC countries,” said Maen Merheby, retail director for Multitrend, a unit of the Al Homaizi Group.

“There are opportunities outside the GCC that we are exploring in the long term but at the moment they are not on the table because of the political unrest.

“We’re looking at tying up with House of Fraser in Abu Dhabi and we are exploring opportunities with Galeries Lafayette, so we’re looking at expanding in parallel between standalone stores and department stores,” he added.

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