UPDATE 1-Versace reviews strategy, to start afresh in Japan

* New CEO Giangiacomo Ferraris appointed in June

* Closing Japan stores; to restart distribution there (Releads on company statement, adds Milan dateline)

TOKYO/MILAN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Italian fashion house Versace is to rebuild its Japanese operations from scratch and is reassessing its entire company strategy, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

“Following the arrival of the new CEO Giangiacomo Ferraris, the entire business strategy is under review,” the spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The company, whose gowns are a favourite of celebrities, has closed its boutiques in Japan and is to start afresh its distribution channels in the country.

“The Versace boutiques in Japan no longer represented the brand image, and it was felt to be more advantageous for the company to close them and start with a clean slate,” she said.

In this way, Versace in Japan can “actively and aggressively pursue new locations and more suitable distribution channels”, she said.

Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported that Versace had walked away from wholesale operations in Japan a few years ago and as of July this year had already closed three directly run boutiques.

The spokeswoman declined to comment further on Versace plans in Japan beyond confirming there were no stores currently open in the country.

Nikkei said Versace’s Japan sales grew strongly in the late 1980s but were believed to have suffered in the current downturn.

In September, the brand’s designer Donatella Versace said in a newspaper interview the economic crisis was an opportunity, allowing for more creative ideas, but acknowledged the need to rationalise costs. [ID:nLM205301]

Unlisted Versace's competitors include Richemont CFR.VX, LVMH LVMH.PA and Bulgari BULG.MI. (Reporting by Colin Parrott in Tokyo and Nigel Tutt in Milan, editing by Will Waterman)