FRANKFURT, June 10 Hugo Boss has
signed up designer Jason Wu, a favourite of American First Lady
Michelle Obama, as the German fashion house seeks to sell more
women's dresses and suits in the United States and China.
Hugo Boss, mainly known for its suits for men, gets about 11
percent of its 2.4 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in annual sales
from womenswear and has been looking to expand this area.
Taiwan-born Wu, known for his love of ladylike designs,
founded his eponymous label in New York in 2007 but rose to fame
after designing the ivory one-shoulder gown that Michelle Obama
wore to Barack Obama's first inauguration ball in 2009.
He also designed the red dress she wore to Obama's second
inauguration ball in February this year.
"I plan to develop a strong, feminine womenswear collection
that reciprocates the brand's authority in menswear," he said in
a statement on Monday.
Wu, 30, will take on the newly created position of artistic
director for Boss Womenswear, with his first collection for the
brand to be shown in autumn and a debut runway show during the
New York Fashion Week in February 2014.
The group is in negotiations with Womenswear Creative
Director Eyan Allen, who has been with the company since 2007,
over his future role, a spokeswoman for Hugo Boss told Reuters.
Wu's new title is superior to that of Allen's.
Womenswear has so far proven difficult for Hugo Boss, as the
market is more crowded than that for men's fashions, HSBC
analyst Antoine Belge said.
"Even Hugo Boss has acknowledged that it's not where it
wants to be on womenswear. They haven't yet found the right
balance between classic and comfortable and more cutting-edge,"
he told Reuters.
Hugo Boss posted a 5 percent fall in womenswear sales in the
first quarter of 2013, while sales of menswear were down 2
percent, mainly due to a shift in the number of collections it
is producing a year.
"This will generate a powerful and creative statement for
Boss Womenswear and show our commitment to focus even more on
the female side of the brand," Hugo Boss Chief Executive Claus
Dietrich Lahrs said of the appointment.
The appointment of Taiwan-born Wu comes after France's
Cacharel signed up Chinese designers Ling Liu and Dawei Sun in
2011. A Hugo Boss spokeswoman said Wu's appointment was not
meant to reflect a focus on any market in particular, but that
the group was impressed by his international style.
However, Wu is popular in China, a key battleground for
luxury clothing brands. Hugo Boss is pushing its presence there
through a catwalk show in Shanghai and is opening new flagship
stores in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The announcement also comes on the same day that British
handbag designer Mulberry said the creative director
behind its famous Alexa and Del ray bags, Emma Hill, had asked
to leave the group.