By and  on November 8, 2005

LONDON — The Italians are marching into Mayfair.

Italian-owned British brands Ballantyne and Belstaff, and luxury label Loro Piana have all opened flagships here this fall in a bid to raise their profiles and capitalize on brisk trading in the city.

The Scottish cashmere company Ballantyne, now majority-owned by Charme Investments, the private equity fund run by the di Montezemolo family, has reopened a 2,700-square-foot store in the same site it occupied during the Sixties. The lavender-colored store, at 153a Bond Street, is the company's first new-generation flagship.

"We love British tradition, and with Ballantyne, we're giving it Italian oomph," said Luca di Montezemolo with a snap of his fingers during the opening party last Thursday. "See these?" he said, pointing to the yellowy-green, teal and aqua knits and wovens. "These are Italian colors, these clothes have Italian flair."

Guests at the party included Diego Della Valle, Gabriella Windsor, Clementina di Montezemolo, Luca's daughter, and a lot of tanned and well-dressed young Italian men. Later, the di Montezemolos held a private dinner at Drones Club, a private Italian restaurant near Bond Street.

In an earlier interview, Matteo di Montezemolo, chief executive of Charme Investments, said the London opening was more of a marketing move than anything else. "The U.K. is our biggest market in terms of prestige, but not revenues. And we're in love with the style here," he said.

The store differs radically from Ballantyne's Notting Hill location in that it's more sophisticated — and doesn't have a psychedelic decor. "Notting Hill was all about how Ballantyne was changing, becoming younger and more fun," di Montezemolo said.

"Bond Street will draw more of an establishment clientele. We've used lavender, white and gold. It's a lot more glamorous and high style. We also showcase the cashmere knitwear alongside coats and accessories, which are much smaller but important product categories."

Di Montezemolo said he believes the blend of Italian style and business savvy with Ballantyne's Scottish knitwear heritage is a magical one. "We're mixing two very different worlds here, but we knew from the start that without the Scottish world, we'd be zero."Next door to Ballantyne, at 153 Bond Street, Loro Piana has opened a 5,400-square-foot store, its second stand-alone unit here after Sloane Street. Sergio Loro Piana, chief executive, said it was a necessary step.

"London is now one of the few cities in the world where we have two locations. Over the past five years, we've registered double-digit sales increases at the Sloane Street store, so we decided on this additional investment," he said.

Loro Piana added that Sloane Street is more for area residents, while Bond Street will be more for locals and tourists. The Bond Street store is one of Loro Piana's largest in the world, and features a made-to-measure room that fulfills orders for everything from bespoke suits, coats and sweaters to yacht and private jet interiors.

Nearby, another Italian-owned U.K. brand is laying down retail roots. Belstaff, the 81-year-old outerwear and sportswear company owned by the Malenotti family's Clothing Company, has opened at 12-13 Conduit Street.

Belstaff, which is now based near Venice, started life as a motorcycle clothing manufacturing company in the north of England. Now, it offers sportswear, outerwear and accessories in its 6,500-square-foot-store.

"Conduit Street provided the right mix for us," said Michele Malenotti, public relations and communications director for the brand. "It's still growing as a street, and will attract commercial and luxury traffic." Belstaff joins Moschino, Voyage, Yohji Yamamoto and Vivienne Westwood on the street.

Belstaff's London store opening is the first in a series; others are planned in Milan and Florence by the end of 2005.

London's Mayfair is only the beginning for budding businesses Belstaff and Ballantyne. (Loro Piana, a more established brand, already has 72 stores worldwide.) Belstaff is looking to build its U.S. business in particular, and plans to open a boutique on West Broadway in New York by next year. Ballantyne eventually plans to open on Madison Avenue. Currently, it sells at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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