By  on November 25, 2008

MILAN — Despite global economic turmoil, Furla is looking beyond the balance sheet, scouting new talents and creative minds.

The Italian accessories company said last week it has streamlined and changed the format of its prestigious art award, Premio Furla, and has selected another designer for its Talent Hub project.

For the seventh edition of Premio Furla, five Italian curators each selected five international curators, ranging from Daniel Birnbaum, director of the Visual Arts sector of the 2009 Venice Biennale, to Raimundas Malasauskas, head of New York’s Artists Space. Together they will single out an artist and commission a new work.

The Fondazione Furla, located outside Bologna next to the company’s headquarters, will buy the work and show it at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The 45,000 euro, or $56,230, fellowship award will be handed out at Bologna’s Arte Fiera, the international exhibition of contemporary art running Jan. 23 to 26. Artist Marina Abramovic is the artistic sponsor of the award.

“We are putting the spotlight back on Italian creativity and mapping out the country’s contemporary art patrimony,” said Giovanna Furlanetto, chairman of the family-owned company. “We need good projects to believe in.”

Furlanetto said she is thinking of “integrating” the artists’ work “in a more audacious way, perhaps in a new advertising campaign.” The executive said when she launched the award in 2000, she did not want to be accused of “exploiting art” and the artists’ works, but now “such barriers no longer exist in fashion.”

The company invests 5 percent of sales in media communication. Last year, Furla reported revenues of 150 million euros, or $205.5 million at average exchange rate.

“We are in a good position, we have no debt,” said Furlanetto. “There recently has been too much finance and not enough product in fashion.”

Furlanetto said 2008 will show a growth, but declined to be specific before the pivotal Christmas period.

Furlanetto also said she has chosen Silvio Betterelli as the next designer who will collaborate with Furla as part of the Talent Hub project, which supports emerging designers. Betterelli will design shoes and bags for Furla, starting with the fall-winter 2009 collection. Other Talent Hub designers include Max Kibardin, who will continue to design shoes for spring-summer 2009, and sisters Alice and Lisa Ferrari under the Maricò brand, who will design handbags for that season.

The economy is not stopping Furla’s retail projects, either. After a recent opening in Shanghai, the brand will unveil a flagship on London’s Regent Street in the first week of December. Coming up next, a new flagship in Barcelona.

In line with many of her peers, Furlanetto is increasingly aware of ecological issues and is launching an initial Eco bag project: a minicollection of three handbags in soft “wet white” leather treated with water at low temperatures to save energy. It is biodegradable and free of metallic substances, such as chrome. A green label on the front allows customers to personalize the bags, which were launched in stores at the end of October.

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