By and  on December 1, 2005

MILAN — Fashion is not a numbers game — at least according to Patrizio Bertelli.

But while the president and chief executive officer of Prada Holding NV is no fan of the financial markets' focus on just the numbers, he has some big ones of his own in mind when it comes to Jil Sander and its possible sale.

Speaking at a luxury goods conference Wednesday organized by The Wall Street Journal, Italian publisher Class Editori and Merrill Lynch, Bertelli questioned the increasingly incestuous relationship between the banking world and fashion, criticizing analysts' valuation methods and the financial industry's pressure to produce results in the short term.

"Analysts are wrong to look just at the numbers. They don't consider what's really important to building a global brand: time and history," Bertelli said.

Bertelli, rare to public speaking engagements, kicked off the conference with a multifaceted speech that extolled the virtues of Italian production, stressed the importance of global brand building and criticized the banking industry's increasing involvement in the fashion business.

Referencing the conference's theme on niche and large-scale strategies, Bertelli said it's more important to focus on whether a brand "enters the collective consciousness" than its mere size. As evidence that Prada has made such an impact, Bertelli referred to an art installation of a replica Prada store recently built in the Texas desert by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset.

"A brand, when it is global, has to preserve step after step ... all of the characteristics of innovation, identity, communication and quality, and do something unique and recognizable all over the world," he said.

As for a possible initial public offering — a prospect Prada has postponed four times — Bertelli demurred on that topic in a joking reference to the conference setting, the Milan Stock Exchange. "We are already at the borsa," he laughed.

Bertelli said he would consider selling Jil Sander if the offer was "very, very, very good." He also revealed that buyers have expressed interest in Helmut Lang.

"We are restructuring [Jil Sander] and converting an entrepreneurial business into an industrial one," he said.

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