Rosas’ New Horizons

Portuguese designer Francisco Rosas is taking his namesake brand to the next level with a more aggressive commercial strategy.

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CASTELFRANCO VENETO, Italy — Portuguese designer Francisco Rosas is taking his namesake brand to the next level with a more aggressive commercial strategy.

This story first appeared in the January 25, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

With a new showroom off Via Montenapoleone in Milan’s golden shopping district, he made his first presentation of a demi-couture, limited-edition line of 13 exclusive evening dresses in Paris at the Hotel Le Bristol on Wednesday, and he will show his pre-fall collection in New York this week. Rosas hopes to expand his distribution network from his current roster of 60 points of sale around the world. His demi-couture featured a ballerina-inspired dress that mixed masculine flannel with feminine tulle and a couple of other confections with distinctive embroidery. It added up to a fine offering of pretty fare.

In the U.S., the designer’s line is available at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Jeffrey (New York and Atlanta) and Savannah (Santa Monica, Calif.), to name a few. Rosas is also working on setting up his first boutique. “I don’t want to create a clothing business, but a brand, and that takes more time,” said the designer in an interview at his atelier in a frescoed 19th-century palazzo here.

“I think there are two trends that will always exist: fast fashion and, on the other end of the spectrum, a higher, exclusive kind of fashion that entails top service, where customers are pampered, offered a glass of Champagne while they shop,” said Rosas, who is drawn to the latter. “Luxury without service does not exist, and we have to bring it back.”

It couldn’t be otherwise for Rosas, with his 12 years of experience at Hermès and two-year stint at Valentino working on the men’s collections. After revamping the Genny brand when the company was owned by Prada — his first brush with women’s wear — Rosas launched his own women’s line in summer 2004.

The designer’s background informs his collections, which include dresses with staple men’s wear fabrics such as flannel combined with delicate chiffon, or V-neck men’s sweaters made with feather-light cashmere and softly belted at the waist. While he relishes shapes from the Fifties and Sixties, Rosas likes to rejuvenate those silhouettes with modern touches, such as tiny leather belts strapped across an openwork tulle cocktail dress. “It’s so easy for a dress to look dated, but I think such details help keep it young and less formal,” he said. The designer works with grays and beige and a lot of black. “In Portugal, black is considered a color, not a basic,” said Rosas, who spices up his favored palette with touches of turquoise or burgundy.

Retail prices range from $934 for pants to $1,495 for skirts, and from $2,250 for jackets to $2,700 for dresses. With the help of his business partner Stefania Cazzaro, who has also worked with Prada Group, the designer has grown his business from sales of 432,000 euros, or $535,680, in 2005 to 1.5 million euros, or $2.05 million, in 2007. (Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.) In 2008, the company expects sales of 2.5 million euros, or $3.6 million at current exchange.


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