PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Italian fashion brand Valentino is enjoying solid demand for haute couture pieces, thanks to Middle Eastern, Russian and U.S. buyers and trading overall continues to improve, its head said on Wednesday.
Valentino Chief Executive Stefano Sassi said buyers from China, the biggest growth market for many luxury brands, were starting to appear as well but it was still early days.
"The Chinese, - they are just starting. The most important are Middle Eastern customers, followed by the Russians and Americans," Sassi told Reuters in an interview after the brand's haute couture show in a private mansion in Paris.
For next season's haute couture collection, the brand favored by Hollywood actresses and European monarchs, opted to woo Russian buyers who have made a strong comeback in luxury boutiques since the 2009 downturn.
Valentino unveiled a collection inspired by the tsarinas of Moscovia and the empire's Boyar guards, mixing fairy tale style with military details which drew the awe of fashion critics and celebrities.
"Each of the looks are so delicate and yet look like an armor," American actress Ann Hathaway said after the show. "When I was a little girl, I dreamed of dresses like this. This is one of my favorite collections, the best one I have ever seen."
Striking pieces included embroidered long black velvet dresses, straight gilded tunics and short cocktail dresses with round-shaped closed collars as well as see-through long dresses ornamented with silk roses, bronze lace or feathers.
"We have very good Russian customers," Sassi said, adding the Russian clientele was attracted by the brand's glamorous image. "And in Russia, there are a lot of very affluent people."
While demand for couture remained buoyant, Sassi said the brand's ready-to-wear business was also growing well and overall the company had seen a 25 percent rise in sales in the first half against the same period last year.
Comparatively, Valentino sales rose 20 percent in 2010.
Sassi said demand was driven by all of the brand's main markets, in Asia, the United States, Europe and Japan.
Asked if he expected the positive sales trend to continue, he said: "So far everything is good."
(Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Patricia Reaney)