By  on December 28, 2010

MILAN — Despite the economic doldrums last year, Cruciani has been charging ahead, leveraging the development of superfine knitwear and a soft look to be more competitive and investing in retail to expand outside Italy.

“It’s not easy for a small brand to be global, but I’ve been holding onto the concept that we do the best product that we can do,” said Cruciani founder Luca Caprai. The entrepreneur’s focus on craftsmanship and luxurious cashmeres and fabrics is paying dividends as fall-winter 2010-2011 sales rose 23 percent compared to the same season the previous year and spring-summer 2011 revenues rose 45 percent over the corresponding season the year before.

In particular, the company posted a growth rate of 75 percent in the U.S. in 2010, compared with the previous year. In that market, which accounts for 8.5 percent of sales, the brand is available at Bergdorf Goodman, with a new corner that opened in September; Louis Boston; Mitchells; Richards, and Wilkes Bashford.

Caprai said he is not looking for a high-profile designer to replace former creative director Roberto Menichetti, who joined the company last year and left after one season. “Menichetti is a genius, but he needs to work with much bigger companies,” said Caprai, who relies on a tight-knit design team. The company, based in Trevi, near Italy’s Perugia, has 490 employees.

Cruciani plans to open three stores in Dubai by June; two in China — in Shanghai and Beijing — and one in Moscow by the end of 2011. The firm currently has stores in Milan, the resort town Forte dei Marmi, Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort, Courmayeur, Tokyo and Dubai. The brand is available at more than 400 points of sale, including Isetan in Tokyo, and Tsum in Moscow.

Cruciani expects to close this year with sales of 15 million euros, or $21 million at current exchange, up from 11.5 million euros, or $16 million at average exchange, the year before. Looking ahead, Caprai said he expects sales of 18 million euros, or $25.1 million, next year.

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