By  on March 9, 1994

MILAN -- For years, Carlo Rivetti worked quietly in the shadow of his cousin Marco Rivetti, chairman of GFT SpA and a champion of Italy's designer apparel boom.

Now, as GFT struggles to get back on its feet and the former oracle of Italian pret has faded from view, Carlo Rivetti is pushing forward with his own ideas.

Rivetti is convinced that the next big wave is going to be in the sportswear, rather than the designer-label business. And that's where he's put his money and effort.

Last year, along with his sister Cristina, Rivetti founded a new company, called Rivitex, and bought out GFT's sportswear division, Sportswear Company SpA, for some $30 million. Rivetti had been president of the division when he worked at GFT.

He has restructured the operation, signed on Romeo Gigli to design for his C.P. Company label, opened a showroom in Milan, and now he's hoping the collections will sell.

"I am convinced that clothing for leisure time, informal wear, is going to see very strong development," Rivetti said during an interview in his new Milan quarters, which opened last month. He noted a growing trend toward casual days at work and moves by industry to allow employees to work from home on certain days of the week.

"If Mr. IBM is working at his home computer, I somehow don't think he's going to be sitting there wearing a jacket and tie," Rivetti said.

Sportswear Company, which is based near Modena in central Italy, posted 1993 sales of $42 million, and Rivetti expects an 11.4 percent increase to $47 million this year. The company employs 170 people and controls subsidiaries in the U.S. and Spain.

Sportswear Company produces its own brands, including C.P. Company, Stone Island, Boneville and Taverniti and also has a license to produce Fendi's Fendissime line. It owns a C.P. Company store in the Flatiron Building in New York, and also sells to such clients as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Louis of Boston. This year, Rivetti hopes to double his U.S. sales from $900,000.

"Now, instead of being part of a huge group, we are a small business, which means we can be more flexible, get closer to the market," Rivetti said.

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