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SHOPPING FOR GOLD TOE: Industry sources say Renfro Corp. is negotiating to buy the Gold Toe sock and tights business of Great American Knitting Mills. Michel Zelnik, president of Bidermann Industries Corp., which owns Great American Knitting, deferred questions regarding the report to Renfro, but Warren Nichols 3rd, president and chief executive officer, declined to comment. James Williams, president of Great American Knitting, also stayed mum.
Renfro, of Mt. Airy, N.C., produces private label socks as well as the licensed labels Aspen, Gitano, Sasson, X-Am, Vassarette, Gloria Vanderbilt, Bonnie Doon and ABC Wide World of Sports.
Several sources in the hosiery industry said Renfro is one of the few hosiery manufacturers in a financial position to purchase Gold Toe. Such a deal would be particularly meaningful to Renfro, which wants to further expand its customer base beyond the mass market, sources said.
"It would be a good move for both companies. Renfro could continue to be a major player in the mass market and Gold Toe could be their department store brand," an industry source said. "I don't know if Gold Toe grew too fast or what, but its distribution got a little out of hand. Gold Toe wound up in some stores it shouldn't have been in. This sale would give them a chance to upgrade Gold Toe."

HUNTER'S NEW SILHOUETTE: Model Rachel Hunter has signed on as the spokeswoman for L'Eggs Smooth Silhouettes pantyhose. Launched in drug stores, food stores and mass merchants in December, the control-top pantyhose promotes the idea that they can do the same trick as diet and exercise.
In her new role, Hunter will promote Smooth Silhouettes during a satellite media tour this month. Other plans for Hunter haven't been determined yet.
According to a company spokeswoman, L'Eggs liked the fact that Hunter, who is married to rocker Rod Stewart and has two children, has less time to work out than she used to.

ANTOINETTE'S DEBUT: Antoinette, a Paris-based maker of women's and girl's socks, has hit the U.S. market. Projected volume for the first year of U.S. distribution is $500,000, according to Michel Loubiere, president of PLM International, which represents the line.
The 20-piece collection consists of anklets, knee-highs and over-the-knee socks, as well as other sock lengths. Wholesale prices range from $5.50 for a basic anklet to $15.50 for handmade trouser socks. The line is being shown at the Apropo showroom at 417 Fifth Ave., New York. Based in Wilton, Conn., PLM also represents Achile, another French sock line.

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