MILAN — The Roberto Cavalli brand is ready to embrace a “new era” under the wings of Hussain Sajwani, the founder and chairman of Dubai-based Damac Properties, who acquired the company from Clessidra SGR in 2019 through his private investment company Vision Investments.
While the fashion brand now helmed by general manager Ennio Fontana and under the creative lead of Fausto Puglisi is set to stage its first runway show in three years as part of Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday, Sajwani flew in from Dubai to unveil another ambitious project on Monday.
More from WWD
The property development company Damac is planning a 70-story residential building located on the Dubai Marina, overlooking the Palm Jumeirah, called Cavalli Tower and to be furnished with items from the Roberto Cavalli home division.
The project replaces a former hotel development unveiled by Damac and Roberto Cavalli in 2018, ahead of the acquisition, which was set to mark the fashion brand’s foray into the hotel business.
New scenarios in the aftermath of COVID-19 called for a revision of that project and a residential complex felt more in tune with the current landscape in Dubai.
The residential project will offer 485 luxury units boasting different, high-end services, including a sea-front view; access to a sky pool and garden, as well as an infinity pool for residents of one of 70 apartments in the upper part of the tower, labeled “super luxury.” Designed by architect Shaun Kill, the skyscraper is to offer amenities including a butler, babysitters, personal trainers, as well as chefs and at-home medical support.
Damac is investing $545 million in the real estate development, which is set to be completed in four years.
“There’s no bigger advertisement for Roberto Cavalli than the tower seen here,” said Fontana pointing to the scale model installed at the center of room at the Principe di Savoia hotel.
“Dubai is the hottest spot in the world, it’s an epicenter. There’s nothing else which could support the brand more than this,” Fontana argued.
According to Sajwani, the project reflects the company’s commitment to the Italian fashion label.
“In January 2020, two months down the road [after the acquisition] COVID-19 burst… The journey has been fun, we had some challenges, we had to move the offices from Florence to Milan because the latter city is the hub for fashion … but today we’re very happy with the skilled, dynamic and motivated management team,” the executive said, touting Fontana’s work at the helm of the company.
His aim is to make the Roberto Cavalli brand “as good as it was back in the days and even better and more.”
Asked about how much he’s committed to investing in the company to spur its growth, Sajwani said Damac “doesn’t have any particular [fixed] amount, as a company we’re quite capable and committed to invest. All depends on the developments of Cavalli, how fast they can move and how fast they can sell, but we’re very ambitious.
“We bought Cavalli and it had a lot of good things but one of the amazing jewels the brand boasted was its design and interior [department], I would say Cavalli’s interior and furniture is one of the best in the world,” Sajwani added. The pragmatic entrepreneur has a track record of real estate developments for Italian fashion houses, having teamed up with Versace and Fendi. On Monday he unveiled that development, known as Aykon Nine Elms with interiors by Versace Home, is slated to open its doors in the first quarter next year in London’s South Bank area, in Nine Elms, not far from Battersea.
The new Cavalli Tower is set to attract European, Chinese and Russian buyers, reflecting Dubai’s changed scenario in the wake of the health emergency. Sajwani said the real estate market is doing very well in the Middle Eastern city with prices spiking by as much as 50 percent, thanks to local management of the health crisis, which boosted confidence and is expected to benefit the area with increased tourist flows and growing retail sales.
Courtesy of Roberto Cavalli
Fontana praised the support of Sajwani and Damac in mapping out the next phase for the brand.
“The relationship that Cavalli has with Damac is getting stronger and stronger every day. We’ve had incredible support from Damac all over the past year and a half … to rebuild the team and start growing again, we feel like a new family thanks to Mr. Sajwani, who visits us very often,” the general manager explained.
Expressing his excitement for the real estate project and the upcoming fashion show, Fontana sees these developments as marking a “new era for the brand.”
The latter entails a stronger focus on the men’s wear market, which is seen as pivotal in attracting Asian consumers. “The brand so far was very much seen as a women’s brand and while we will continue that path, with the most beautiful women wearing Cavalli on the red carpet, we want to also develop men’s wear,” he said.
To this end he referenced the brand’s recent tie-up with Mike Tyson, who starred in the video presenting Puglisi’s flamboyant men’s offering for spring 2022.
Describing him as a full-fledged icon, Fontana said Tyson “was fighting for the mass against the strong powers … and Cavalli at the moment has a similar objective to conquer back our ring, our market.”
Although the U.S. is top of mind for the executive, as the country has been historically the most prosperous for the brand, he offered that a top priority is gaining the interest of Russian consumers, while Sajwani said he sees untapped potential in the Middle East, as well as Asia, which the company is committed to address after other markets have been strengthened. In the past year and a half, the company inked deals with local partners to open Roberto Cavalli flagships in Europe, the Middle East and India, while six other units are in the pipeline, including a store in Miami’s Bal Harbour area slated to open in December.
The Damac chairman underscored that the world is in flux and that current challenges include facing growing competition from Asia. “Today the big advantage against Asia and China in terms of manufacturing is a narrowing gap,” he offered. “Twenty years ago, the middle class would not buy Chinese products, now they are, so the market is getting narrower in the high-end range and you need to be more flexible and agile,” he offered.