By  on January 8, 2009

MILAN — The economy isn’t stopping accessories brands from expanding their men’s collections, or, for companies that had targeted only women until now, to venture into new territory.

Case in point: Furla, which is launching a men’s accessories collection at Pitti Uomo designed by a new, dedicated team. After a soft launch in June, the Bologna-based company is focused and determined to grow the line to about 15 percent of sales within three years.

“The men’s wear market is resilient and not suffering too much in this economy,” said chief executive officer Paolo Fontanelli, who also noted the move is in line with Furla’s expansion in China. “In some emerging markets such as China, it is penalizing not to have a men’s wear collection because men are the big spenders there and we are very much focused on that region.”

The ceo noted that the men’s accessories collection was previewed on the brand’s e-commerce site for the spring 2009 season. “In four weeks, we registered brisk business with lots of women buying, too,” said Fontanelli.

Key to the success of the collection, he believes, is that it offers real leather product, which is made in Italy, at an approachable price point. Retail prices average around 350 euros, or $486 at current exchange. In addition to work-related items, there will be travel pieces and small leather goods in calf, sometimes combined with felt, or with a crocodile print.

Church’s also is betting on men’s spending power by expanding its product offering. To unveil the brand’s product extension, the iconic footwear firm will relocate and update its Pitti Uomo stand with a mock shop reproducing the new generation of Church’s stores opened throughout last year. Among the new items that will be offered are knitted and woven silk ties, knitted silk and woven cashmere scarves, blankets, small leather goods, belts and weekend bags in bridle leather, gloves, thermo-bonded waterproof rainwear and the traditional British brollies — umbrellas with crook handles in chestnut with silver collars.

The English company, established in Northampton in 1873 and now controlled by Prada Group, believes its modern take on traditional British accessories will allow Church’s to create a lifestyle brand.

Italia Independent, founded by Fiat heir Lapo Elkann, has joined forces with historic milliner Borsalino to create a new hat collection. In addition, it will continue its handmade footwear line produced by Tuscan firm Arfango.

The two-year-old I-I reinterpreted the classic Borsalino hat in three different models, using fabrics from its apparel collection. One hat is made in Cordura, the same material used for the tuxedo jacket; another is wool with the same exclusive grunge pattern, and the third is a hat that can be rolled up in a color combination similar to that of I-I’s driving shoes.

“One of the prerogatives of I-I is that it reinterprets the clothing icons and makes them closer to a contemporary style,” said Elkann. “In the same way, we want to transform an evergreen icon of elegance into a new cult object for the younger generation,” he said of the hats, labeled “Borsalino Handmade for Italia Independent.”

Activewear brand Puma and Sergio Rossi, which teamed up earlier this year to launch a women’s capsule collection for spring, have extended their offerings to men’s shoes and will present that collection in Milan on Jan. 19. One design will reinterpret Puma’s iconic Clyde sneaker, which made its debut in 1973, in suede or patent leather.

At Pitti, designer Manuel Bozzi, best known for his belts with guitar-shaped buckles and whose jewels embellish Marithé + François Girbaud’s jeans, will launch animal-themed rings — including a panther — and charms inspired by Keith Richards’ guitars. All jewels are handmade in Tuscany’s Pontedera in sterling silver.

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