By  on September 19, 1994

ATLANTA -- While 807 keys much of the apparel trade moving through Miami, some local manufacturers are building business with locally made products, often aimed at a niche market.

One of these Miami fashion denizens is Pezzi Inc., bodywear manufacturer, which, banking on unusual treatments, is out to double sales and become a national presence by the end of the year.

Over the past year, the Miami-based company has picked up accounts with Macy's West and Nordstrom, in addition to business with existing specialty chains, such as San Francisco-based Body Options. The company also is designing custom groups for cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

To accommodate its new accounts, Pezzi has expanded its line 25 percent, offering more coordinating groups, and computerized systems to provide a turnaround time of 24 hours on orders for certain styles. With increased distribution, sales, which reached $1 million in 1993, are projected at $2 million this year.

Designer and president Shelley Pezzi worked in children's wear and swimwear before experimenting with bodywear six years ago.

"Everything on the market was basic and boring, so I made my own," said Pezzi, who hails from Colombia. "People started asking me about them and then a few stores showed interest, so I knew there was a market for unique bodywear."

Pezzi does some 60 silhouettes, including leotards, boxer shorts, bra tops and unitards. They feature varied back treatments and such details as spaghetti straps, cut-outs, zippers, lace and appliqués. The line's 12 colors reflect ready-to-wear trends.

Novelty fabrics, such as French terry, crocheted effects and jacquards, make up 60 percent of the line, with the remainder in solid basic cotton and Lycra spandex.

"Novelty fabrics are our signature, so we're constantly testing with mills for new ones," said Harold Pezzi, Shelley's brother, who serves as vice president, as well as co-designer.

Half of the solid numbers feature novelty trims; the other half carry no embellishments, but offer the fast 24-hour turnaround time on reorders. This group of basics was introduced in June.

Also, all the solid styles are designed to coordinate with novelties."We want to offer quick reorders in an assortment of colors that coordinate with novelty fabrics. Department stores can take advantage of all the crossover possibilities, and mix and match between divisions," said Harold Pezzi.

Many pieces, such as high-necked leotards with knitted collars and suspender tights, have a sportswear look.

"Everything we do crosses over into streetwear," said Harold. "It limits the life of bodywear to be just for the gym."

Wholesale prices for the overall line ranged from $10 to $25.

Deborah Gibbs, buyer for Capezio, a New York-based sportswear and bodywear shop with six locations, has carried Pezzi for over two years, to good consumer response.

"It's very sophisticated and forward in design," she said. "And there are plenty of pieces for crossover dressing, such as tops to wear with jeans. Today, companies have to offer that."

Pezzi owns a 3,500-square-foot plant for manufacturing samples. The remainder of manufacturing is done through local contractors.

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