By  on September 26, 2006

Roberto Cavalli likes to think big, and the U.S. expansion plans for his younger line, Just Cavalli, are no different.

“I have big projects for Just Cavalli,” said the designer, who plans to open 15 stores for the brand in America over the next year and a half.

“It’s had a crazy evolution and we’ve been seeing a 40 percent jump in sales worldwide,” added Cavalli in a telephone interview from New York. “I really love the U.S. and want my brands to grow there. New York used to tag along [in fashion], but now it leads the way.”

That said, Cavalli said he plans to continue to show the collection in Milan.

Just Cavalli has 20 brand boutiques around the world, five of which are in the U.S.: two in Las Vegas, two in Los Angeles and one in Bal Harbour, Fla. A flagship in New York is scheduled to open early next year in a 4,860-square-foot space on Fifth Avenue. Coming up next are stores in Dallas, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

“There is a great potential to grow,” said Enrico Di Muccio, president and chief executive officer of IT USA, the U.S.-based branch of clothing manufacturer IT Holding, which owns the Gianfranco Ferré and Malo businesses and holds licenses with Cavalli, Versace, Costume National and John Galliano for their diffusion lines.

Di Muccio said his goal is to double the Just Cavalli business in the next two years to wholesale sales of $35 million. Today, the U.S. accounts for 16 percent of Just Cavalli sales worldwide, and Di Muccio said his objective is for sales in the American market to reach 30 percent of the total.

Just Cavalli, which was launched in 1997, accounts for 30 percent of IT Holding’s sales, which, in the first half of the year, reached 367.3 million euros, or $470 million at current exchange. Di Muccio said he currently is renegotiating the license, which expires in four years.

“My name is hot now,” said Cavalli. “I’ve grown my signature line to the level of semicouture, so there is room for a casual, young line and I’ve kept the two very separate from one another.”With its trademark rock ’n’ roll themes and sexy silhouettes, Just Cavalli has caught the attention of a number of young celebrities, from Kate Hudson to Alicia Keys. Cavalli said the line is targeted to young customers, ages 16 to 30. Di Muccio said bestsellers include dresses, retailing at between $300 and $950; T-shirts and silk blouses, priced between $180 and $450, and leather jackets, retailing at between $300 and $1,500.

Di Muccio said the line is available at 270 points of sale in the U.S., including stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s. “Our boutiques, department stores and specialty stores each account for one-third of the business, but, with our retail push, we want to grow our brand boutiques to account for 50 percent of sales,” said Di Muccio.

Cavalli said he plans to evolve the Just Cavalli line with a new, small denim collection, but declined to provide further details. “I very much believe in this line, and there is still room to grow,” he said.

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