Byline: Janet Ozzard, with contributions from Sara Gay Forden, Milan

NEW YORK--In its latest move to grow internationally, Calvin Klein Inc. has created a company to spearhead European expansion, to be headed by Alberto Lavia, a former managing director of Polo/Ralph Lauren's European business.
The move confirms industry reports that Calvin Klein president Gabriella Forte has been in Italy several times in the last few months attempting to put a production and distribution network in place.
Sources said Forte has met with executives from designer-label giant GFT SpA, which already makes the Calvin Klein men's line for the U.S., and with Gruppo Genny, which produces the Genny and Byblos lines. However, both companies, as well as Forte, denied having any contacts.
Meanwhile, Calvin Klein here announced Monday that the new company, Calvin Klein Europe, will oversee all of the designer's business in Europe from its Milan office.
Lavia has been named managing director of the new concern, and will assume the post May 22. He will oversee a staff of about 10, said Forte.
The move takes place almost a year to the day after Forte announced she would leave her top executive post at Giorgio Armani to take over the president's job at Calvin Klein. It was anticipated then that she would move to aggressively expand Klein's international business.
"I think when you're operating in a country, it's best to have your own team," said Forte. "It helps keep control and gives better service to the client. The office could also be a go-between with the head office; you can speak the language and take care of administrative needs better."
Forte said Europe accounts for 4 percent of Klein's overall volume. With the new deal, she expects that figure to reach 10 to 15 percent of total volume.
Until now, business in Europe had been handled through distributors for the jeans and fragrances and through Klein's New York office for Collection and CK, Forte said.
Forte said the first priority for the new office is to "control distribution in licensed product, like the jeans and the underwear." The second, she said, is to "develop a strategy for sales of CK and Collection." While freestanding stores aren't high on the priority list, she pointed out that there is already distribution of those lines throughout Europe, as well as a freestanding Calvin Klein store in Basel and one under construction in Geneva.
Forte said advertising will grow as sales grow, because the ad budget is a percent of sales.
The move is the latest in Klein's effort to grow globally. In March 1994, the company created Calvin Klein Japan Inc., to oversee its Asian business. Lavia will oversee all business developments, including licenses for Collection and CK products. He will report to Forte.

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