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Antik Batik Moving Forward

PARIS -- France's Antik Batik is building steam with its ethnic-inspired ready-to- wear and accessories.<P>Gabriella Cortese and Christophe Sauvat founded the line a decade ago after meeting each other on the beach at Saint-Tropez. At that time,...

PARIS — France’s Antik Batik is building steam with its ethnic-inspired ready-to- wear and accessories.

Gabriella Cortese and Christophe Sauvat founded the line a decade ago after meeting each other on the beach at Saint-Tropez. At that time, Sauvat peddled beaded bracelets from South America; Cortese was settling into life in France, where she had recently moved from Italy.

Initially, the company reflected their hunger for world travel. Today, the company is expanding around the globe at a steady clip.

With three locations in Paris, Antik Batik is adding a temporary boutique in Saint-Tropez this summer and venturing to Japan in the fall with a Tokyo outpost. New York and London openings are on the horizon as well.

Revenues last year grew 40 percent to an estimated $4.5 million. This year, Sauvat and Cortese project sales will grow another 30 percent.

While accessories, such as Brazilian bracelets, belts from India and Mexican-style handbags, account for 70 percent of total sales, ready-to-wear is growing.

“We’re really developing the apparel side,” said Cortese, projecting clothing sales should account for 40 percent of volume this year.

Antik Batik’s design origins read like titles from the collector’s edition of the Lonely Planet guidebooks. It is not rare to find one or both designers in obscure countries in search of fertile creative ground or overseeing various stages of Antik Batik’s production.

Cortese and Sauvat steer clear of factory labor. Instead, they prefer to find local artisans on their travels and strike up a production agreement.

“We favor craftsmanship and local artistry,” said Sauvat, emphasizing, however, that all pieces are finished in France.

Both designers base their itineraries on their particular whims, trusting that wherever they go, the creative juices will flow.

“We travel where we want and the work organizes itself around that,” Cortese said. “As soon as we move, ideas spring forth.”

Several seasons ago, Thailand’s red-light districts and Parisian cabarets inspired Antik Batik’s successful line of “peep show” lingerie with sequined appliques.

The fall collection is a true global melange that spans Indian shawls, Mexican-inspired leather goods and necklaces and bikinis from Brazil. It will be available in about 900 doors worldwide, mostly in Europe and Asia.

At present, distribution in the U.S. is limited, including specialty retailers Henri Bendel in New York and Tracey Ross in Los Angeles. Retail prices range from about $75 for a lingerie set to $250 for a hand-painted embroidered dress.

“Sales in the U.S. are still small,” said Cortese. “But we want to grow them.” She added they were looking to hire an agent in the U.S. and participate in American trade events.””