CIVIDINIS ARE TAKING AIM AT BIG GROWTH IN THE U.S.Byline: Alessandra IlariMILAN--Having made their name with cashmere knits and moved on to tailored clothing in plush fabrics, Piero and Miriam Cividini now want to make a move on America."We're counting a lot on the U.S. market, which accounts for 15 percent of our total sales," said Piero Cividini.It was exports that helped the Cividini label grow into a $10 million (16 billion lire) business in 1993, and "we expect to reach almost $13 million (20 billion lire) in 1994," he added.Although exports already account for some 70 percent of the six-year-old firm's business, one of Cividini's main growth strategies is to bolster its sales abroad, not only in the U.S. but elsewhere in Europe as well.Since 1992, when they first started exporting to America, Cividini has picked up a list of clients that now includes Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Louis of Boston, Janet Brown in Washington, Linda Dresner in New York, Avant Garde in Beverly Hills and Savannah in Santa Monica. But selling in the U.S. market has its pitfalls. "It's funny; our U.S. clients decide their orders at the last moment and then want everything delivered first," said Miriam Cividini."Service and punctuality are very important if you want to beat your competition on this market," added Piero. "However, it's not always easy to meet deadlines when the retailers place their orders in November and want the merchandise delivered by January. Sometimes we have to penalize markets that have made their orders earlier to prioritize and satisfy the American ones," he went on.The Cividinis hope to boost the image of their label through trunk shows at their major points of sale. The firm plans to hold shows in January at Savannah, Avant Garde and Neiman Marcus."Trunk shows are an important moment to meet the retailer and final consumer. They help sell the product," Piero said. "We also travel to the U.S. five to six times a year to survey the competition and check out the U.S. tastes and trends."The other step Cividini is taking to improve its U.S. position is an increase in advertising."In the first semester of 1995, we will increase our advertising budget 30 percent over the same period of 1994," said Piero, who added that he is still evaluating which publications he'll use.According to Piero Cividini there are some substantial differences between the tastes of American women and Italian women."I've noticed that the U.S. clients like to stick to the total look, so they'll wear knitwear from head to toe. The Italians instead like to mix and match according to their taste," he said.For the first time, during the Milan fashion week in October, Piero and Miriam officially presented their apparel collection with a runway show in their new showroom space in Milan."Of the spring/summer 1995 collection, the bestsellers among U.S. buyers included knitted jackets, sweaters and dresses in stonewashed silk. We sold between 400 and 500 pieces of this group, while the top sellers of the tailored collection were linen and silk gauze jackets, pants and blouses. We sold approximately 300 pieces."It was at the end of 1991 when the Cividinis took their first steps in the world of tailoring and started making cashmere blazers and coats that matched their trademark cashmere knits. "We started doing tailored looks because we wanted to try something else, and we thought they could be a good complement to boost the image of the label," explained Piero Cividini."We bought the same cashmere yarn from the prestigious Loropiana mill. With one part we produced the knitwear, and with the other we made classic tailored pieces," he went on.The couple, however, is adamant about keeping the two lines separate, so they tagged the tailored one Cividini Collection while the knitwear is simply called Cividini. The knits are produced by a knitwear manufacturer McAdams, based in Al Bettone, a small town in Northern Italy. "We grew together and we have a very solid rapport," said Cividini. "When we started the apparel line we handed McAdams all the production so that they could choose the manufacturers and supervise the production," he added.In terms of style, the duo doesn't like their product to be dubbed "classic." In fact, they are very attentive to seasonal trends, which crop up in every collection and are even more emphasized in the Cividini Collection."Trends are very important. We don't want to make fashion, but we pay attention to trends. We don't want to do something super classic because we want an identity of our own," said Cividini.The spring/summer collection offered plenty of the new trends seen on the designer runways--HotPants, knee-length skirts, lacquered cashmeres and little dresses.From the beginning of their activity, the Cividinis have put a great deal of energy into researching innovative fabrics. The news in the summer collection was a silk yarn blended with a thread of steel that gives jackets, shirts, blouses and pants a shiny and crinkled effect. "This part of the collection performed well with our U.S. clients from the West Coast," added Miriam.Before the advent of high tech textiles, the couple spiced up traditional knitwear, leaving behind the credo that a cashmere sweater had to be traditionally ribbed, beige and with a crewneck.Today Cividini's cashmere knits crop up in brights and pastels, with unusual finishes, treatments and blends.Among Cividini's innovations are stonewashed cashmere sweaters, ecologically dyed ones, and the no-seams, tubular styles. "We started with pure cashmere and slowly included fibers such as linens, silks and cottons, and then blended them," maintained Miriam.Sporting Cividini however, doesn't come cheap. Wholesale prices are in the range of $129 (200,000 lire) for a wool sweater, $290 (450,000 lire} for a cashmere one, and $387 (600,000 lire) for a cashmere blazer.
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