Byline: S.G.F.

MILAN--Executives at Giorgio Armani and GFT SpA, the designer manufacturing giant that produces men's and women's diffusion collections under the Armani name, are mulling a name change for GFT's New York-based Armani division. It is currently called Giorgio Armani Fashion Corp.
Although a new name hasn't been chosen yet, one possibility is GFT Le Collezioni, executives at both companies said.
The reason for the change has to do with trademark considerations tied to the Armani name, and GFT's desire to boost its own visibility. The Giorgio Armani Fashion Corp. is entirely controlled by GFT and oversees the distribution of the men's and women's diffusion collections, Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, as well as the men's diffusion line, Mani.
"It is only a question of a name change, but it is an important move for the corporate identity of GFT," a GFT spokesman said. "In the United States everybody knows Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Joseph Abboud, but not everybody knows GFT."
At Armani, general director Pino Brusone told WWD, "We have important trademark considerations, and it doesn't make sense to have the Armani name on companies that aren't part of the Armani group."
GFT, which is based in Turin, also manufactures for Valentino, Calvin Klein, Emanuel Ungaro, Joseph Abboud and Nino Cerruti, among others. GFT is Italy's largest designer apparel producer, with 1996 sales of $832 million (1.41 trillion lire).
The Giorgio Armani business represents around $264 million (450 billion lire) of GFT's total sales. GFT's U.S. Armani business totals around $158 million (270 billion lire).
The name change is expected to go into effect with the signing of the Armani men's wear license, due before the end of this month.
Talk of the change comes when the industry is rife with speculation over the future of Armani's women's license with GFT, which has been up for renewal since March. GFT managing director Angelo Barozzi and Armani's Brusone said they will start renegotiating the contract in September.
"There are a number of possibilities on the table, but the most important issue is the continuity of our business with GFT," said Brusone, when asked about rumors that Armani was beefing up capacity at Antinea, his directly owned manufacturer. That facility currently produces the Emporio Armani collection and there is speculation that it could also take on production of the women's diffusion collection next year.
Barozzi flatly denied reports that this would be GFT's last season producing the women's portion of the Mani line, which is only sold in Europe. In March, Armani himself had fueled speculation about his plans for producing the women's diffusion collection when he was quoted by Italian financial daily Il Sole-24 Ore as saying he was thinking of doing the collection through Antinea.
At the time, Armani's threat was largely dismissed as a bargaining ploy to thwart the planned merger between GFT's owner, HPI, and Marzotto, a deal that has since collapsed.

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