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Tue, Oct 20, 2009
The Business Times
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Calvin Klein goes big on Asia
by Melissa Lwee

WHILE many brands have recently found themselves with little choice but to downsize, Calvin Klein Inc finds itself bucking the trend.

'There might be a global economic crisis but there are actually many opportunities that are open to companies in the market precisely because times are bad, such as lower costs and rents,' muses Calvin Klein Inc's CEO Tom Murray.

'We are very lucky that at Calvin Klein, we are financially in a position to capitalise on them. America has been hit quite badly as a market, but we're doing surprisingly well in Europe and really well in Asia, especially in growth countries such as China.'

Indeed, these are no empty words from Mr Murray for the man himself was recently in town to officiate at the opening of two new Calvin Klein stores at ION Orchard - the largest ck Calvin Klein in Asia and a new Calvin Klein Jeans boutique.

'Singapore is one of those markets that has been exceptionally strong for the brand,' explains Mr Murray. 'We do something like $60 million worth of business in Singapore and if you divide that by the local population, the amount of money that we make per capita certainly ranks right up there with the best cities in the world for us when it comes to sales so it definitely made sense for us to pay attention here.'

He believes that Calvin Klein has managed to stand tall because the brand has cultivated for itself a strong DNA that consumers identify with.

Says Mr Murray: 'We've always been a brand that offers clothing that is stylish and that offers clean lines when it comes to silhouettes but more importantly, we have built an image of classiness without being led too much by fashion trends, and I think that consumers feel secure buying from us because they find that image comforting.

'I don't think I ever want the brand to be too fashion-driven because it is a very risky business.'

But lest we think that Calvin Klein is a one-trick pony, rehashing the same looks season after season, Mr Murray begs to differ: 'It is precisely because we are able to reinvent our clothes to keep things fresh and at the same time, retain the brand's image that we have managed to stay as a big player in the market for so long.

'Talent, of course is a very important factor. Our designers Francisco Costa and Kevin Carrigan do so well for us not just because they are incredibly creative people but also because they've both been with us for so long that they really understand our identity to the core, and they never lose sight of that when they design.'

Not happy to rest on its laurels, the group will continue to be aggressive. On top of the new store openings, Calvin Klein has upped its investment in marketing and publicity.

'At a time like this, I think it is all the more important to remain a visible brand which is why we've sunk more money into our advertising campaigns this year,' he concludes. 'It is, of course, important that we continue to deliver quality products to our customers because no amount of marketing can save you otherwise, but I maintain that we also have to keep our presence felt.'

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