From Paris with love
Founded in 2005 by brothers Laurent and Arik Bitton, IRO combines a vintage feel with chic style. Thus, appropriately, the official opening party on September 9 featured acclaimed Australian rock band, The Preatures.
International Fashion Group (IFG) acquired the license for the IRO in this region brand last year. Formed in 2003, IFG sources and delivers premium international fashion brands to Australia and New Zealand. Its current portfolio numbers over 10 brands and it works with over 600 boutique retailers, major department stores and multi-door vertical chains nationwide.
IFG’s retail general manager, Paul Ryan, said opening a local IRO store now, 10 years after the brand was founded, made sense from a timing perspective.
“We just thought the product was really suitable for the Australian market and really different to what was already here,” Ryan told Inside Retail Weekly. “Also, we knew that the brand had a strong following in Australia, so it made sense to offer the entire collection in Australia.
“The product really suits Australia in many senses – it’s quite trans-seasonal.”
In 2006, the first IRO flagship store opened its doors in the chic Paris shopping district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, before expanding within France and then worldwide including to New York, LA, London, Copenhagen and Zurich.
The brand is also offered in high-end boutiques such as Barneys, Nordstrom, Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols. Adding to its cachet, IRO has gained an enviable following with fashionable celebrities including Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore.
What’s in store
Today, IRO has 19 stores across the world, with both men’s and women’s categories offering ready to wear, accessories, footwear and small leather goods.
Currently, IFG is formulating plans to open more IRO stores within Australia and New Zealand. At the time of writing, one to two new locations are in the planning for both 2016 and 2017.
“We are looking at opening a store in Melbourne in the near future and I think it’ll be particularly strong in Melbourne,” Ryan opined.
Following that, the second store for next year could be in either Sydney or somewhere in Queensland.
This latest store in Sydney showcases the IRO store formula. The size is approximately 200sqm, including the back of house area. The actual retail component is just over 150sqm, which Ryan said is an ideal footprint for the brand. On display – somewhat paradoxically, for that meaning – is the brand’s favouring of space.
“It’s interesting because their [the Bitton brothers] belief is that space is an ultimate freedom and they would like to make it an affordable luxury in all of their stores,” he said.
The expanses of space combine with large windows and recessed spotlights to enhance the minimalist look, which has no fabrics or curtains anywhere in sight.
“They like to mix cold rich finishes with warm timbers to create a modern luxurious feel,” Ryan said.
Most of the walls are marble with a textured, painted surface used on a couple of select walls. The marble is a dark brown-black, while the textured wall surfaces are slightly off-white, close to a grey. A pale timber finish is also used – the point of sale desk and all the fitting rooms are timber, with timber slats breaking up areas within the store. Some interestingly shaped cubes display accessories, such as shoes and belts.
In terms of store location, different options are still under consideration, but the brand is very particular as to who they sit next to.
“Each time we look at sites, we have long discussions with [the Bitton brothers] whether they think it’s brand suitable,” Ryan said.
“They want more premium luxury edgy brands, which is how they see themselves. Most of their stores are in strips but, because of the level of some of the shopping centres in Australia, we are also looking at shopping centres for the brand. Like your Westfield Sydney or Chadstone that already have quite a large luxury international offering.”
Sociable in spades
Having The Preatures play at the store opening not only aligned with the rock and roll DNA of the IRO brand, but also, “did wonders for our Instagram followers”, Ryan said. There are around 1900 local Instagram followers to date already, and Ryan said that number has grown quite rapidly over the last few months, since the Sydney store opened.
The database receives regular communications, however, just like most European brands, there are only a couple of sale periods each year. “Basically what we communicate is new ranges coming in, particular styles that are coming in that people have been waiting on,” Ryan said. “The customers are very fashion conscious and understand and know the brand, and know what is coming in a lot of the time.
“We are really lucky because the brand is really sought after, particularly by the media – and by bloggers. So we’re using a lot of those guys to help us promote the brand and create brand awareness.”
Ryan opined that IRO creates a sense of excitement with consumers because the product speaks itself, affords it plenty of exposure in the fashion media.
“It is interesting product,” he said. “It is fabrics used in different ways, so it has quite a lot of appeal to people looking for something a bit different.
“The fit of the garments are excellent, the quality – it’s the whole package with this brand.”