Chinese designer Zhu charms Milan fashion world with plans for Krizia

Chinese owner of Krizia vows to maintain firm’s made-in-Italy heritage but with her own style
Agence France-Presse in Milan

Zhu Chongyun, the glamorous Chinese entrepreneur and designer who has taken over Krizia, has vowed to maintain the historic fashion house’s made-in-Italy heritage.

Zhu, who bought the stricken brand from its iconic founder Mariuccia Mandelli earlier this year, outlined her plans in an interview in Milan during the spring/summer 2015 womenswear shows.

All being well, she will be back in the city in five months to present a debut collection of womenswear for the autumn/winter of 2015, although that launch date has still to be confirmed. “We hope it will be in February 2015 … we hope,” she said with a smile.

WATCH: Chinese entrepreneur and designer Zhu Chongyun charms Milan with Italian vision of Krizia future

Zhu, who is based in Shenzhen, has been spending the week in Italy’s fashion capital, taking in the shows and putting together a creative team that will, under her leadership, be charged with reviving a brand that had fallen on hard times in recent years as Mandelli and Aldo Pinto, her husband and business partner, struggled with age-related health problems.

The willowy Zhu has also been cutting a dash on the fashion week cocktail circuit, thanks to a catwalk figure and youthful beauty that defy her status as a 50-year-old mother of two.

“She’s a walking advert for staying out of the sun and not drinking alcohol,” said an admiring Krizia insider with a smoke-infused cackle. “And it is obvious that she is a really strong woman, just like Mariuccia. You can see why she was attracted to the brand.”

Designer Mariuccia Mandelli (front right) sold the brand to Zhu due to financial troubles and her husband’s health problems. Photo: Reuters

Zhu’s takeover is being marked by a multimedia exhibition hosted jointly by the city of Milan and Italy’s national fashion chamber.

Backed by some of the country’s most influential fashion publications, the exhibition is part tribute to Mandelli’s heritage as a pioneering female force in the industry, part welcome for Zhu and also partly an exercise in reassuring everyone that Krizia’s tradition will not be compromised as a result of the move to Chinese ownership.

Invitations to the exhibition’s opening included a message from Zhu outlining her vision for the brand. It read: “Krizia’s identity will not change in substance, but will simply be updated to a contemporary sensibility.

“My fashion is aimed at independent women who have their own well-defined opinions and ideas, who live their lives in their own way, with curiosity and humour, and who, above all, can never be taken for granted.”

A model presents a creation by Krizia during a previous Milan Fashion Week show. Photo: EPA

Zhu added: “We want to keep the tradition of Krizia but obviously we will have more creativity, something more, something fresh.”

As it is a private company, it is unclear how much financial trouble Krizia was in before Zhu stepped in, but it is understood the sale was concluded for about US$35 million, a figure that will look a snip if the company, which has a claim to having invented hot pants, can be restored to its former glory.

A stock market listing is being planned and a futuristic new headquarters is under construction in Shenzhen, from where Zhu will shuttle back and forth to Milan in a two-continent lifestyle akin to that of China’s best-known international designer, Shanghai-based Uma Wang.