By and and  on August 28, 2009

In these meager economic times, retailers and consumers are helping themselves to seconds — designer second lines, that is.

Executives from Galliano, Red Valentino, Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti and others cite encouraging progress and future growth potential as retailers devote more floor space to such brands and as consumers seek more bang for fewer designer bucks. These second lines also are building their own retail networks and expanding their product assortments.

“There is a global attention right now for Red due to the fact that it offers an edgy, ironic and fashion-oriented design at good quality and interesting prices,” said Stefano Sassi, chief executive officer of Valentino Fashion Group. “It perfectly integrates with our main line, a successful concept given the difficult times.”

Sassi said he considers Red a long-term strategic opportunity — evidenced by the fact that for the spring 2009 collection, Valentino severed its ties with licensor SINV SpA to bring production in-house.

Red was launched in 2003 by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, then accessories directors who were appointed sole creative directors in October. Today, Red is sold in some 850 doors worldwide, with plans to open freestanding stores in London and Hong Kong this year.

Galliano, John Galliano’s second line, launched in 2007 under license with Italy’s Ittierre SpA, recently opened its first freestanding store in Tokyo’s Omotesando Hills mall. Galliano has also established shop-in-shops in Japan’s Isetan (on the fourth floor and adjacent to brands such as Anna Sui, Tory Burch and Y’s Red Label), France’s Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, and London’s Harrods, speaking to global buoyancy for the segment.

Although John Galliano ceo Pierre Denis declined to give figures, he described the brand’s second line as a “substantial business” that has “exceeded expectations.” Next up for the brand is a freestanding shop in Hong Kong in 2010, to be followed by a rollout in greater China, plus a footwear range to complement the apparel and leather goods.

Alexander McQueen ceo Jonathan Akeroyd characterized the McQ line, licensed to Italy’s SINV since 2006, as a “massive opportunity,” citing demand at a pop-up shop in February in New York for McQ’s collaboration with Target as evidence of great “awareness and desire for McQ,” currently sold in about 400 doors.

To be sure, designer executives breathed a collective sigh of relief in April when Roberto Cavalli inked a new five-year license for his Just Cavalli label with Ittierre, a leading Italian maker of designer second lines.

The renewal signaled a turning point for Ittierre, which filed for the Italian equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February after running out of cash. Just Cavalli is the biggest license for Ittierre, generating 2007 revenues of about 240 million euros, or $328.9 million. Ittierre’s other licenses include C’N’C Costume National, Galliano, VJC Versace and Versace Sport. The Galliano license with Ittierre also was recently renewed through 2014, and was extended to include a men’s wear collection.

In 2007, Ittiere’s “young lines” segment had net sales of 404.5 million euros, or $553.8 million.

Massimo Ferretti, ceo of Italy’s Aeffe SpA, parent company of Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti and Moschino Cheap & Chic, said he sees opportunity for secondary collections in this economy.

Cheap & Chic, priced about 30 percent less than the signature line, posted a midsingle-digit increase in 2008, while Philosophy revenues rose 10.4 percent.

New Cheap & Chic stores are planned for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Doha, Qatar; Baku, Azerbaijan, and Taipei, Taiwan, plus corners in Madrid and a shop-in-shop at Chongqing, China. Also, in partnership with Euroitalia Srl, the firm launched a Moschino Cheap & Chic fragrance featuring a bottle inspired by Olivia, the brand’s iconic duck.

Meanwhile, Blufin Srl, the parent of Blumarine and Blugirl, has expanded Blugirl via licensing into homeware, eyewear, bags, underwear and beachwear, and earlier this year opened its first franchised Blugirl store in Milan.

Executives were eager to distance today’s secondary lines from the diffusion craze of yore, with some Italian brands even balking at the s-word.

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