By  on June 6, 2008

MILAN — Breil Milano is venturing into new territories with the launch of its first handbags.

"We want to do it our own way, in line with our history, without trying to be too fashion, but taking a significant step in the world of leather goods," said Marcello Binda, chief executive officer of Binda Group and style director of Breil Milano. "We hope to bring a touch of innovation in a mature and saturated market," said Binda, revealing that a number of distributors were skeptical about yet another non-handbag company putting out its own design. "But I have to say the response has been very good and very encouraging so far."

Binda Group, which owns Breil Milano and the Wyler Genève business, is also the licensee for brands including Dolce & Gabbana's D&G watches and costume jewels, Moschino Cheap & Chic watches and costume jewels and Ducati watches.

The bag will be a permanent style in materials from velvet to calf and satin, and in three sizes — day, urban-work and evening. "We want to maintain one design in a market where strength often lies in variation," said Binda.

The color palette ranges from pink gray and iris blue to black, blackamoor and burgundy. For evening, the handles are embellished with Swarovski crystals.

There are a number of references to Breil Milano's core business, watches and jewelry, in the soft and deconstructed bag. Called Number Zero, the bag is adorned with metallic details, such as hooks, inspired by the brand's jewelry, and the round bottom features concentric circles. A version with feathers adds a playful touch to the line.

The bags will be distributed to about 300 stores worldwide and will be available in September, although there will be some deliveries to hit Breil Milano flagship boutiques in July. Retail prices range from 300 to 700 euros, or $438.40 to $1,022 at current exchange. There is also a limited edition version with pleated calf strips treated in an origami-like pattern, which retails at 1,500 euros, or $2,192.

The line is produced in Milan and is in sync with Binda's efforts to reposition Breil Milano in the high-end range of the market — a process initiated a year ago through the use of more precious materials and Swiss precision techniques. "I am more interested in the quality of projects, and less in volumes," said Binda, who has been cutting the number of points of sale that carry Breil Milano from 10,000 to 7,000. There are 30 Breil Milano stores and Binda said he wants to reach 100 in the next three years.The repositioning is working for the company, said Binda, in the medium to long term. The executive said he expected sales to reach between 340 million and 350 million euros, or $496.8 million and $511.4 million, in 2008, up from revenues last year of 297 million euros, or $406.8 million at average exchange. Watches account for 60 percent of sales, with jewelry making up the remainder.

Binda has no immediate plans to further expand the line. Other existing product categories include a fragrance, licensed to the Italian Morris, which made its debut two years ago, and the recently launched eyewear line, licensed to Eyevit.

To further boost the image of the brand, Binda said he has renewed the contract with Charlize Theron for Breil Milano's ad campaigns until 2011. The executive tapped Jean-Baptiste Mondino to shoot the new images in Los Angeles.

A year ago, Breil Milano entered the American market, and the company will open its first flagship in New York's SoHo district this summer, with an official inauguration in September during New York Fashion Week. The 1,800-square-foot, two-story store is designed by Italian scene painter and art director Andrea Rosso. On the ground floor, one wall will be decorated with hand-painted ceramic tiles by artist Edwin Vlassenroot and artwork by Czech contemporary artist Jakub Nepras.

Binda said he is also "keeping an eye on emerging markets" and has signed a joint venture in China to open stores there.

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