By  on August 19, 2008

NEW YORK — Next month’s Luca Luca runway show will close with a new face taking the final bow. Raul Melgoza will present his first collection as the label’s creative director, moving into the spotlight once reserved for founder Luca Orlandi.

Melgoza’s appointment is just one of several developments at Luca Luca, which was acquired by the Miami-based Equitium Group last May. Equitium managing partner Amir R. Amir has been named to the new post of chief executive officer of Luca Luca, where he will work closely with president Yildiz Blackstone to grow the brand.

The label is also broadening its assortment with an increased focus on sportswear, while implementing a strategic focus on wholesale and developing the freestanding retail network.

“We saw an amazing brand and a wonderful opportunity,” said Amir, whose Equitium also owns the chemists and perfumers Caswell-Massey. “You have to be passionate, and when we saw the collection, we said, ‘Wow, we love the product.’ Also, you have an Italian fashion house in New York, which is very rare.”

Blackstone added, “It was a turning point for us to decide to look outside Luca Luca for support, both in capital and management support. The first phase was over, and now we were moving into the next phase, and we needed more human resources, more capital to open more stores and expand into different markets.”

Orlandi may no longer be involved in the company’s day-to-day operation, but he isn’t leaving the firm. He will continue to serve the label as founder and is available when needed for creative direction and strategy consulting. Orlandi was traveling and could not be reached for comment Monday. Melgoza will design the collection and plans to broaden its offerings.

“We think of Luca Orlandi as the founder and designer emeritus,” Amir said. “The transition happened before the acquisition, and Luca’s role is ensuring that the brand stays true to its heritage.”

Orlandi founded the company with a store on Madison Avenue in 1992 and has taken an unusual route. Unlike many of his peers who chose to expand through wholesale, Orlandi focused on building his reputation through freestanding stores, with customer service being a priority. The company now has five stores: Madison Avenue; Collins Avenue in Bal Harbour, Fla.; Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Fla.; East Oak Street in Chicago, and Highland Park Village in Dallas.

A second store on Madison Avenue and 62nd Street recently closed, and the company is looking to secure another unit on the street. In addition, Amir said the plan is to open a unit in Los Angeles next year.

Over the years, Luca Luca also picked up some 35 specialty store wholesale accounts, including Julian Gold in San Antonio, Harvey Nichols in Dubai, Beyman in Istanul and Podium in Moscow. Wholesale growth is now becoming a key priority for the firm.

“When we talked about what attracted us to the brand, it was also the customer service,” Amir said, adding the new owners seek to ensure that any retail partnership will mirror that.

The company’s executives declined to disclose volume information. Sources estimate Luca Luca has total retail sales of $25 million.

Melgoza, a Los Angeles native, is no stranger to the label. He was hired by Orlandi fresh out of Parsons The New School for Design four years ago, and worked closely with him, most recently as senior designer and Orlandi’s right-hand man. In fact, in recent seasons, Orlandi had been taking his runway bow with his design team, which included Melgoza.

The designer hopes to broaden the label’s scope beyond dresses. “In order to build the company, we have to expand on the sportswear,” Melgoza said. “I don’t want the brand to be seen as just a red-carpet, special occasion brand. I want to broaden the product range, and also push accessories.

“I will be looking at what Luca did in the past but not be obsessing over it,” he added. “I see it as a foundation that I can take to the next level.”

Asked for his target customer, Melgoza cited a professional career woman, who will look to Luca Luca as a label for multiple occasions.

Melgoza, who also has a degree in finance from the University of Southern California, appears to have no runway jitters, and he joked that he has already been practicing his runway peek-and-wave. “I have been with Luca for a while,” the 33-year-old said. “There will definitely be some cha

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