By  on March 12, 2007

MILAN — An overcrowded market dominated by global fashion brands vying for an increasingly demanding customer might discourage some designers from launching a label.

Not so for Alberto Caliri and Gabriela Fluss, who last year introduced their high-end ready-to-wear brand Caliri Fluss. The designers, however, are no strangers to fashion and capitalized on their years of experience at a number of Italian brands including Malo.

Currently creative designers at Ballantyne, Caliri and Fluss know a thing or two about knits and bring their trained eyes to their own brand. Backed by Spartis SrL, a newly created incubator company focused on start-ups, the line is already available at hot boutiques such as Antonia here and Feathers in London. A Caliri Fluss boutique is slated to open in Capri's exclusive Hotel Mamela at Easter.

"We are looking at alternative distribution — resorts and locations associated with luxury vacations, for example," said Giuseppe De Franciscis, a founding partner of Spartis and a former partner of a top Italian law firm that has assisted Mediobanca, one of Italy's main investment banks, and publishing giant RCS Group, among others. Spartis was also founded by Paolo Pomé, a former principal in BC Partners, a private equity fund that took part in the acquisition of telecommunications behemoth Telecom Italia.

De Franciscis shares a long-standing friendship and a southern streak of joie de vivre with Caliri and Fluss, as they all come from the region surrounding Naples.

"There has to be a dose of passion and craziness to try and bring your ideas to life — whatever the moment in terms of economy and business," said De Franciscis. The idea for Caliri Fluss took shape during a vacation in Ibiza; the cruise 2007 collection comprised feather-light cashmere swimsuits and fluid caftans decorated like the back of antique French playing cards.

"We'd like the brand to be associated with holidays, ease and nonchalance," said Caliri. A reference to holidays also comes with the choice of staple colors such as sand, ecru and anthracite, and black from the beaches and the lava from Mount Vesuvius, near Naples.

Violaine Bernard, in charge of public relations for Feathers, described Caliri Fluss as "Chic, versatile and easy to wear. On a boat, this is the perfect item to wear over your bikini. Back in the city, combine your Caliri Fluss caftan with leggings during the day and dress it up with black opaque tights and wedges in the evening."For fall 2007, the designers added a sartorial touch to shirts, jackets and cardigans with the help of a Neapolitan tailor who has worked with the likes of Attolini and Rubinacci.

"We treat knits as fabrics," said Fluss. The designers employed Ermenegildo Zegna's superfine Excellence cashmere and the firm's new Cashwool. "Cashmere is the most beautiful and sexiest fiber in the world," added Fluss.

She said she had been moving away from fully fashioned knits, and noted that sweaters, cardigans, tops and dresses were all made from separate panels that are crocheted together by hand by artisans in the area surrounding Naples. The crochet work creates intriguing geometric patterns on the fabrics.

"Also, there is an unexpected touch of sensuality, where you catch a glimpse of flesh between the seams, on the shoulders or on the waist," Fluss said.

Wholesale prices range from 200 euros, or $260, for a sweater, to 500 euros, or $648, for a coat. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange.

De Franciscis said he hoped to reach 30 stores with the brand's fall collection, the line's second.
— Luisa Zargani 8Mcalirifluss1, 2 and 3

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