By  on January 22, 2008

MILAN — Giambattista Valli has launched a namesake fur line filled with czarina appeal to complement his sophisticated clothing collections. For this project, the designer signed a five-year licensing deal with Ciwifurs, Marni's parent, to produce and distribute the fur line. Valli introduced 50 looks for pre-fall, treating fur like fabric in terms of construction, shapes, weights and sartorial detail. "The market is very receptive and open to fur these days, especially when it's treated in a new and modern way," said Valli, who garnered a significant fur experience during his five-year stay at Fendi. "And Ciwifurs is the best when it comes to high-end furs because it has great artisans and pattern-cutters and they're open to experimenting."Ciwifurs is probably the only company left in Italy with the know-how and the artisans to satisfy the whims of top designers, as is evidenced by the labels it manufactures — Fendi, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Lanvin and Prada among them. Ciwifurs posted sales of $41 million in 2007. "Our goal is to turn into reality a designer's desires by using any fur he or she requests," said Gianni Castiglioni, chief executive officer of Ciwifurs. Castiglioni expects Valli's fur line to do $2.9 million in wholesale volume in the first year, a figure he aims to double by 2011. The line will be carried at the designer's existing points of sale with special attention to the U.S. and Russia, where fur is popular. From a design stance, Valli worked with a plethora of skins, namely broadtail, chinchilla, Persian lamb, mink, fox, sable, kidskin, shearling and bobcat. For surface interest, he often mixed and matched the furs, juxtaposing sheared versions with longer-haired ones. At times, he created a mosaic effect by inserting wool, razmir or crocodile into the fur and at others used tulle-veiled chains as understated decorative elements.Valli also worked a variety of shapes — boleros with ruffled cap sleeves; long styles with leg-of-mutton sleeves; fit-and-flare versions with exaggerated ruffled collars, and A-line numbers with silk plissé panels. Retail prices range from $5,900 for a kidskin coat to $73,000 for sable. The fur line caps an ebullient period for Valli, whose sales have grown 290 percent over the last three years, also fueled by last year's introduction of pre-collections. An annual sales figure was unavailable.Valli's label is carried in 207 sale points worldwide, including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman in the U.S.

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