By  on January 14, 2009

MILAN — Italian apparel brand Cruciani said Tuesday that it tapped Roberto Menichetti as creative director, confirming reports in these columns in December. “We are friends and he is a star — a genius, enormously talented,” Luca Caprai, Cruciani founder and chief executive officer,said of Menichetti, who has had stints at Burberry Prorsum and Celine as well as his own short-lived collection. “Cruciani is a high-quality brand that needed Menichetti to fully express itself and to bloom.” Menichetti will be in charge of Cruciani’s men’s, women’s and accessories collections in a “very, very long-term project,” said Caprai. Menichetti’s first collection for Cruciani is being showcased at Pitti Uomo in Florence. “These are only the initial steps,” said Caprai, adding Cruciani’s first women’s collection designed by Menichetti will be presented during Milan Fashion Week next month. Caprai has been steadily expanding Cruciani’s product offer into a lifestyle collection. The company, known for cashmere sweaters, is based in Trevi, Italy, not far from Menichetti’s family-owned apparel firm in the medieval town of Gubbio. Caprai described the new Cruciani collection as “dynamic and essential, modern and classy.” The executive pointed to standout jackets made with deer hides that have been vacuum-packed, a treatment that makes them elastic and waterproof; stretch cashmere jackets; knits with inlaid work that, Caprai said, “take five days to make.” Menichetti peppers the collection with geometric patterns, antique Tuscan and Umbrian coat of arms, but also futuristic touches. Hues revolve around powdery blue, green and red, which hark back to 15th century artist Giotto and his palettes. Italy, Japan, Asia, Spain and Russia are the brand’s main markets. Available at 250 points of sale worldwide, Cruciani counts stores in Tokyo, Milan, and at the high-end spa Terme di Saturnia in Tuscany. Despite the economy, Caprai said one of his main goals is to expand in the U.S., where Cruciani is available at Barneys New York and Wilkes Bashford. To this end, the company is offering a favorable exchange rate to American retailers at 1.2 euros to the dollar, compared with the current rate of 1.33 euros. “I see this as an investment,” said Caprai. “We have a unique product and I believe that we can grow everywhere.” In 2008, the company registered sales of 20 million euros, or $29.4 million at average exchange rates, in line with the previous year. Men’s wear accounts for 55 percent of sales and women’s wear makes up the rest, but Caprai said he expects these proportions to be reversed with the fall collections.

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