Harrys of London steps into Abu Dhabi
Giuseppe Bonfiglio is of Italian heritage, but he knows British style. The chief executive of Harrys of London shoe store has just overseen the launch of the brand's first shop in the UAE, at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, in a partnership with Dubai Holding Group.
You are quite a young luxury brand, having started only about 10 years ago. How do you create a history of Britishness when you do not have one?
It depends on how you look at it. There's obviously a lot of brands that are 100-180 years old. So yes, compared to them, we are very young. But if you look from a market perspective, there are many young brands. The company is 10 years old, but the people that work behind it are very experienced.
By the sound of your name and accent, you are not British, so are you the best person to sell a British brand?
I was actually born in England and I have a British passport and have lived in the UK a long time. But my parents are from Italy.
Outside London and Abu Dhabi, where else have you launched the Harrys brand?
We have launched in Tokyo in Japan and in Kuwait. We will launch our second store in Kuwait in the beginning of March.
Why did you choose Abu Dhabi to launch a store?
The main reason is that we have stores in London and for a long time we have had customers from Abu Dhabi. The customers here in the UAE are very sophisticated. It's a very mature market. People understand quality and service. They are very conscious of that. We have been in Mayfair for the last three and a half years and we serve a lot of Middle Eastern customers. We serve lots of royal families because they have houses in Mayfair. It was a very organic move for us to Abu Dhabi.
How much do your shoes cost?
Our shoes are about Dh1,750 (US$476), which is equal to the price in London. It's high-end luxury. We have a London approach to design, [and] so compete with British brands. But our shoes also compete with brands from Italy and France.
A lot of British brands, including LK Bennett, Hackett and The Ivy, have set up shop in the UAE recently. Do you think the Gulf has a particular affinity with British brands?
It's not just here, it's round the world. England has some of the best schools around the world so people are used to going there. There's always a connection with people. It feels kind of home to a lot of people because everyone travels to London. Everybody knows New York, but London has a longer history and the royalty. It has a very strong presence around the world.
Where will you expand next?
We are planning on opening a store in New York towards the end of the year, and we want to open a store in Dubai as part of the normal growth for a brand in this region.