By  on July 17, 2006

BARCELONA — The Barcelona edition of Bread & Butter is not just about jeans.

Non-denim-oriented companies at the three-day show that ended July 7 reported new retail strategies to expand distribution into a denser global arena.

One of the fair's bigger local players, Custodio Dalmau, co-owner (with brother David) and designer of Custo Barcelona, said "within our developing business strategy, the broadest expansion is planned for the U.S.," where the Barcelona-based sportswear label will open another half-dozen company-owned stores in the next 12 months.

The locations are slated for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Honolulu and a second store in New York. In addition, the company is firming up a network of franchised shops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. "To better communicate with the customer, you have to have your own stores," Dalmau said.

Custo previewed a small range for spring 2007 featuring girlish baby-doll dresses with signature mix-match prints.

Another brand targeting the U.S. is Barcelona-based Jordi Labanda, with a multifaceted product range — from women's wear and handbags to carpets and bed linens — by Spain's prolific and popular fashion illustrator Jordi Labanda.

What export manager Patricia Alcobia called "Labanda World" will exhibit for the first time at the August PROJECT Las Vegas as a springboard, she suggested, to the planned fall opening of a New York showroom.

The company is to launch its first freestanding store in September off Paseo de Gracia, considered Barcelona's golden retail mile. Labanda's humorous graphics sell to about 400 domestic points of sale, Alcobia said. Japan is the brand's number-two market through the distribution of Mitsui & Co.

Labanda was one of 92 vendors making up the show's "Milk and Honey" hall, an eclectic group of better-to-bridge apparel and accessories categories. Trends featured what one exhibitor called "coquettish femininity" — including volume play, breezy fabrics, glitter and shine — and a generally sedate summer palette of black and white, beige and heavy cream, navy, pale pinks and mint green.

Among the key offerings:

  • Julie Sohn's tailored separates, including a slew of white cotton shirts with a twist; full skirts, and empire-style dresses in crinkled silk. The label is in its second season with New York's Takishimaya, Sohn said.
  • Luis Buchinho's round-shouldered "cocoon" shapes and decorative pleats (the Oporto, Portugal-based designer sells to Pieces Boutique in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.)

  • Ailanto's shapely dresses in splash-poppy red and dark wine prints inspired by Agatha Christie films and the Thirties.

  • Bambi's "romantic glam" dresses and separates with patched-fabric combos and metallic threads. The line's niche items are selling in better specialty stores like Dernier Cri in New York and Olga in Paris, said Laura Figueras, owner and designer.

  • Sita Murt's delicate baby-fine knitwear with contrasting textures such as gold mesh and lace. The Barcelona-produced line, including embroidered dresses and pants, signed up 120 independent accounts for spring-summer 2006, its first U.S. selling season, said Rosemary Myczkowski of The Isabella Company, who is Murt's U.S. sales executive. Wholesale prices range from $80 to $240.
Two key brands used Bread & Butter Barcelona to launch major fashion makeovers. Armand Basi, a local sportswear label, added U.K.-based German designer Markus Lupfer to its creative team this year. His first women's collection for Basi is made up of refined, superclean silhouettes, including sequined tanks, blouses and lightweight tops with novelty sleeve treatments, pants, skirts and chiffon dancing dresses.

Retail prices range from 70 to 250 euros, or $89 to $318 at current exchange rates. Basi operates 14 stores in Spain, two in Russia and one each in London and Dubai.

The Amsterdam-based brand Elle has revamped its fashion concept to focus on modern chic and wearability at accessible mid-price levels, said artistic director Nikki Hillier. In their first season with Elle, design duo Oscar Raaijmakers and Suleyman Demir whipped up two basic shapes: short and boxy, or longer, stretched-out bodies; a slick series of pared-down jersey dresses, and golf sportswear, including a perfed leather jacket and a piqué skirt.

Elle plans to open six franchised stores this fall and an another eight to 10 by spring, Hillier said. Targeted countries are Russia, China, Poland and Spain.

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