By  on February 25, 2011

MILAN — A new Sportmax store concept will be unveiled here today.

Covering 2,700 square feet over two stories, with four large windows, the store is located in the city’s central Via Spiga, and replaces a previous one on the same street, in Milan’s so-called golden shopping triangle.

But Milan is only the first step in a global retail expansion for the brand. “While maintaining a selective distribution, we want to increase our worldwide presence, in China and Russia, for example,” said Luigi Maramotti, president of the Max Mara Fashion Group, which controls the Sportmax label.

There are currently 13 Sportmax stores, in cities such as Paris, Moscow, Hong Kong,Shanghai and New York. These units will be renovated along the lines of the Milan blueprint. The brand is also available at Max Mara stores and in select department stores. “In the U.S., we plan to start distributing Sportmax in department stores in the next two years,” said Maramotti.

Just as the brand “blends history and tradition, past and present,” said the executive, whose family owns Max Mara, the store juxtaposes sleek lines on the ground floor with a Fifties mood on the second level that maintains the original traces of the typical Milanese bourgeois apartment. Nude is the main color throughout.

On the first floor, architect and designer Vincenzo de Cotiis, who developed the concept, maintained the oak floors and their aged look, and the original wallpaper, at times even displayed behind a glass slab. “It’s a modern store that doesn’t erase the space’s history,” said Maramotti. Contrasts stem from shiny surfaces, offset by opaque, textured glass, made to look aged. De Cotiis, who launched the Haute fashion line in 1998 (now called Decotiis), is known for his experimentation with contemporary materials contrasting with recovered pieces and materials, evident in the design of Milan’s hotel Straf, for example.

Likewise, Maramotti underscored how Sportmax, launched in the Sixties, invests in research while at the same time harking back to its heritage. “Evolution is part of our job, but the identity must remain as an anchor,” he said. He remarked that “the idea of a target age has almost disappeared,” and that Sportmax, which initially was aimed at a younger customer, had evolved and now revolves around experimentation with shapes, fits, techniques, fabrics and materials. “Research and development is our daily bread,” he said.

The Max Mara Group, based in Reggio Emilia, Italy, marks its 60th anniversary this year, but it is not planning any celebratory event, said Maramotti. The firm will take its “Coats! Max Mara, 55 Years of Italian Fashion” exhibition, which bowed in 2006in Berlin, to Moscow’s Red Square in October.

The group closed 2009 with sales of 1.16 billion euros, or $1.61 billion at average exchange rate. Figures for 2010 are not yet available. The company has 5,000 employees and a total of 2,258 stores in 100 countries.

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