ROMEO GIGLI FILLS A FRAGRANCE NICHE

Byline: Bridget Foley

NEW YORK--"Talk about mystique."
That's the way Steve Bock of Saks Fifth Avenue characterizes Romeo Gigli, who was at the Saks flagship on Wednesday to launch his second women's fragrance, G Gigli.
Bock, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks, said the fragrance, which hit the shelves Sunday, was off to a "wonderful" start, and he expects it to develop into a strong niche brand.
Niches are nothing new to Gigli, long a high priest of fashion cultism. Now, just as he did when he appeared on the scene in the mid-Eighties, Gigli is again ready to shake up fashion's status quo in his own quiet way. After two seasons, he's hoping to defect from the Carrousel du Louvre and says he knows other designers who also want out. He'd love to show his fall collection in a clear tent in the wiry shade of the Eiffel Tower.
"It's depressing for people to be all day long underground," he said in an interview this week. "I love the sun." But he's not holding his breath, since "everything in Paris takes so long to accomplish."
Yet the cavernous Carrousel isn't all that's bugging him about fashion's current mood. While Parisian procedure may take eons to wade through, Gigli thinks fashion itself skips along too quickly, at a pace detrimental to the creative process and at odds with the way women live. "It's so hard to live and work when everything moves so fast," he said. "Creativity is killed with the kind of communication we have today.
"Every season, it seems, there's a new joke," Gigli added. "I can't believe women want to be seen in this way. Sometimes you see in the magazines and the women look out of this world, or like dolls. That is stupid. Clothes should work the way society is thinking. They are a moment of social life."
Gigli said a designer must strike a balance between his own vision and what women need in a given time frame. "Fashion--it is a small world," he noted. "Out of this little world we have to project how the vision will work in the other world."
Interesting stuff from a man who many say operates in his own alta moda galaxy. Gigli showed his first women's collection in 1984 and quickly became a cult favorite, an early entrant in fashion's sober school. He was knocked off all over the place. Over the years, his clothes have become increasingly exotic and dreamy--more colorful and decorated--and have drawn inspiration from numerous ethnicities.
Admirers--and there are many--hail him as artist and visionary. Critics say he's fallen out of the loop with a thud. In the midst of an ultraglamorous spring, for example, Gigli showed a collection WWD described as "primitive clothes from some other civilization."
"I don't like to do costumes," he said. "But the sense of color--it comes from somewhere, and this inspiration was African. That to me is the balance. These are clothes, not a joke. Clothes should make women look beautiful. A trend is nothing."
In step or not, the Gigli machine moves to the tune of about $248.6 million ($400 billion lire) wholesale. It encompasses numerous licensees and a string of boutiques around the world. The designer himself owns the Romeo Gigli shops in Milan, Paris and New York, and there are franchises in Vancouver, London and Tel Aviv, with two more about to open in Zurich and Seoul. Of 31 G Gigli shops worldwide, 20 are in Japan.
In addition to the women's ready-to-wear for Zamasport, the men's for Zegna, and the diffusion line G. Gigli for Interfashion, Gigli also has deals for swimwear, women's and men's shoes, women's and men's accessories and fragrances.
With the arrival of G Gigli at Saks, three of his four fragrances are now in the United States. His second men's scent, SudEst, is scheduled to launch at all Neiman Marcus stores the week of Feb. 13.
And Gigli hopes to get a complete home collection off the ground by next year, which he plans to house in his Corso Venezia shop, once he finds a larger lodging for the ready-to-wear collections.
"People have asked me to do it," the designer said of the new project. "A table, a chair--it's just like the clothes or the fragrance. I just have to find what people need. It's just a part of life."

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