Belstaff’s unstoppable quest of the luxury world – an exclusive interview with CEO Harry Slatkin
Less than a week since the opening of Belstaff House in London, a symbolic opening not only from the point of view of size but also reinforcing its British heritage, I sat with Harry Slatkin, the company’s CEO to speak about the new opening and the fantastic re-positioning journey of the brand.
Boasting a brand new retail concept, the new Belstaff House in London’s New Bond Street firmly establishes itself among the global luxury powerhouse brands. Speaking about the interior design of the flagship store, Slatkin stressed: ‘I wanted our products to be at the centerpiece, hence the understated luxury approach to the interior design’. On the British heritage of the company, he added: ‘ Opening on New Bond Street is certainly a powerful statement and our Britishness exudes again from our product and some more subtle references’. As you might have noticed, we intentionally wanted to create a warm and cozy atmosphere’.
My next curiosity took us to his choice of David Beckham to be the face of the new Fall campaign but also the official celebrity to inaugurate the store, especially considering Beckham has recently endorsed Swiss watch brand Breitling, including the new London flagship opening as well as the new Breitling watch for Bentley. Slatkin’s retort was ‘You see, David is a biker. He owns several bikes and he has long been a fan of our brand, so the association came as natural’.
Speaking about the positioning of the brand, he said ‘In two and a half years since we took over the brand, awareness of the brand and implicitly its positing has changed almost 360 degrees. You see, now, in most department stores around the world, we rub shoulders with Gucci, Burberry and Prada, which would be unprecedented in the past’.
On the expansion strategy I went on to ask him about the company’s priorities and strategic approach ‘We aim to expand as much as possible through directly operated stores, but it is very much a case by case situation, better to say a market by market situation. But at the same time, we enjoy some fantastic partnerships with international retailers’.
When addressing the slow down of luxury sales in China and which geographical regions he considers as priority, Slatkin said ‘We are not present at all in China, so we are carefully preparing our entry. We are going to be a new brand with a new product and I see tremendous opportunities in China in the near future’.
In terms of product development and talking about the performance of the company, Slatkin told me ‘We are enjoying an exceptional year. As you might have seen, we are focusing on expanding our accessories line, especially handbags. I have to admit our women’s products have taken off at a slower pace but this is the first year, we see solid growth and with the quality of our products, now at exceptional level, both materials and craftsmanship, we can firmly stand by any other major international competitor’
I also shared my impression that the company was slightly less internet / social media involved and I went on to ask him whether there was a particular reason for that. ‘In less than 3 years we have turned around the brand – there was as much as we can do. It was only two years ago that we launched the e-commerce platform of the brand. The rhythm of development has been astonishing and we wish to take each step at time. We are widely present online and social medias as a priority, but we tend to take a more conservative approach.
Oliver Petcu in London