By  on January 2, 2008

NEW YORK — Just Cavalli, the carefree younger sibling to Roberto Cavalli’s signature collection, is eyeing U.S. expansion with an adolescent’s appetite.

In February, the brand made its first appearance at market in the U.S. and its licensee, IT Holding, announced plans to roll out stores nationwide, supplementing existing stores in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Bal Harbour, Fla.

The grand opening of a Manhattan flagship in August caused a huge stir on Fifth Avenue as tourists and paparazzi strained for a glimpse of the designer and dozens of his VIP friends, including Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson. The store’s first-year sales are anticipated to be around $12 million.

Just Cavalli launched stores in Boca Raton, Fla., and San Diego around the holidays, bringing the worldwide total to 37. In March the ninth U.S. location is scheduled to open at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. And six more are planned in places likely to include Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco for a total of 15 U.S. stores by 2010.

Men’s sales at the Manhattan location have been unexpectedly strong, both in apparel and accessories, according to Enrico Di Muccio, CEO of IT Holding. The 10-year-old collection once consisted mainly of jeans and T-shirts. Now footwear, bags, scarves, sunglasses, outerwear, leatherwear and even suits are being well received by men, Di Muccio said.

Prices range from $300 to $600 for jeans, $500 to $1,400 for outerwear, $500 to $600 for sport jackets, and $200 to $400 for shirts.

The broadening of the collection has allowed for more quietly sophisticated offerings. Roberto Cavalli is most famous for designing with animal prints, and Just Cavalli has always reflected that tendency. But now the brand is embracing solid color, Di Muccio said. The spring/summer collection was based on the themes of Maghreb and Egypt, and featured deep oranges, bright reds and burnt yellows. By no means is Just Cavalli deviating from its young, adventurous, sexy, festive sensibility. It’s no accident that its stores are in vacation areas and cities where a Latin influence is celebrated.

“We would like to be more present in California, Florida, Texas and New York. We’re looking for [space in] Soho,” Di Muccio said.

In the United States, Just Cavalli men’s division represents 40 percent of the brand’s total sales volume. Just Cavalli for men, which launched in 1998, is carried in 75 U.S. doors, including Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.

The spring 2008 men’s collection posted a 44 percent increase over the previous spring and a 17 percent increase over fall 2007, the company said. But it is still a very small slice of the Cavalli pie, with room to grow.

Roberto Cavalli SpA is reportedly considering listing its shares on the stock market at some point, an option that would generate funds for future development. Cavalli branded products rang up an estimated $953 million this year (a 30 percent increase), with men’s wear and accessories accounting for roughly two-thirds of the total volume.

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