By  on November 8, 2006

MILAN — Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli lashed out at the Italian fashion industry Tuesday, accusing it of being out of date with a fast-paced and increasingly competitive world dominated by Asian manufacturing prowess and chains such as Zara and Hennes & Mauritz. The executive also called for a massive shift in the fashion show calendar, moving the spring ready-to- wear shows to July.

During a 24-minute speech at a luxury goods conference organized by the Pambianco consultancy, Bertelli touched on a variety of subjects, criticizing Italians for working fewer hours than their foreign counterparts and rallying for government aid to small businesses. He also acknowledged fast-fashion chains' competitive muscle, consumers' declining sense of brand loyalty and banks' failure to weather companies' difficult times.

"The Italian system's answers to these problems are always the same. There's been no change. [Instead] there are these peripheral discussions about how many days of fashion shows there should be and whether Prada will show first or Prada will show first," Bertelli said.

Despite those powerful words, the executive's tone softened considerably when pushed to discuss the future of his own 1.33 billion euro, or $1.69 billion at current exchange, company. Cornered by journalists asking if he'll finally come through on a thrice-postponed public offering next year, Bertelli muttered cryptically: "We'll see when the best moment arrives."

Meanwhile, there are other corporate developments afoot at Prada. Bertelli said he will finalize a fresh financing deal with Banca Intesa by the end of the month. As reported, Banca Intesa plans to buy 5 percent of Prada as part of a 300 million euro, or $375 million, package.

Elsewhere, Prada is gearing up to buy the remainder of shoemaker Church's by the end of the year, according to a source close to the company. Private fund Equinox, which bought 55 percent of Church's from Prada in 2003, has an option to sell control of the company back to Prada. Church's just tapped former LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Italia executive Agostino Ropolo to head up retail development for the footwear brand.

At the conference, Bertelli said Italians have failed to unite and confront a rapidly changing global market. He was particularly critical of the fashion show calendar and proposed moving up the spring women's rtw shows to July, ahead of Italy's famed monthlong vacation break in August.

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