WWD | MARC KARIMZADEH
NEW YORK — Robert Burke Associates, founded in New York in 2006, is expanding.
In May, Robert Burke, president and chief executive officer of the consultancy, opened in London and Los Angeles to better serve emerging markets and the growing interest of entertainment personalities in fashion.
The London office will serve designers, brands, retailers, retail development groups and investment bankers in Europe and the Middle East. “We are seeing a lot of activity from private equity groups looking to invest in fashion brands there,” Burke said. “In London, a fair amount of brands also want to enter the U.S. market and we can help them with it.”
Florence Hampson Bellon, whom Burke worked with when she was in the London buying office for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman and he was Bergdorf’s senior vice president of fashion and public relations, is running the London office.
The Los Angeles branch, led by Tracy Chow, who previously worked for Burke in New York, primarily focuses on celebrities and other personalities looking to translate their profile into brands. The office will help them develop brand concepts, product lines and brand extensions with collaborations and licensing agreements. Clients in that arena so far include Daphne Guinness, Andre 3000 and Carmindy.
“We are seeing so many personalities and celebrities who want to be a brand, and while that has been somewhat haphazard for many in the past, we are now available to put together a brand strategy for individuals,” Burke said.
He said international markets continue to gain in importance for luxury firms, citing countries from the former Soviet Union, including Kazakhstan, where the company is working with Saks Fifth Avenue on its first location in the region; Azerbaijan, and Poland as newer opportunities. The BRIC countries, he added, continued to represent many opportunities for fashion houses, but each comes with its own set of nuances that needs to be addressed.
“The business has changed over the past five-and-a-half years with the growth of emerging markets,” Burke said. “Some people think that with the BRIC countries, you enter and make $100 million instantly, but each one is different. In China, the luxury consumer is still being educated, and the importance of marketing and a brand presence is critical there. What works in the U.S. does not mean it automatically works in China. Brazil has its own specific challenges because of taxes and duties, but that consumer is becoming much more global. Brazil has an emerging middle class that didn’t exist as such before.”