By  on May 30, 2007

MILAN — The Roberto Cavalli brand is ready to conquer more territory under the management of a new chief executive officer, Cristiana Cavalli.

Cavalli, the designer's 40-year-old daughter, said in her first interview since her appointment earlier this year that she was looking to tap into the potential of the brand through a number of new licenses, such as a cosmetics line, a sports-technical clothing line and a home collection. There also are plans to list the firm on the stock market in the near future, although no date has been set.

Last year, SAB Capital, a private equity fund established in Saudi Arabia by Sheikh Salah Al-Belawi, submitted a bid for 60 percent of Cavalli, but an agreement was never reached.

"To grow and strengthen our business, an IPO would be more in line with our strategies, compared to selling part of the company to new partners," said Cavalli.

Her father concurred. "Absolutely, a listing is a likely possibility. The stock market would help us address some of our weaker areas," said the designer, noting he would like to expand the brand's product offering with a cosmetics line, for example.

"Color is what we are about, and I'd love to enter this business," said the designer, who last week was at the Cannes Film Festival, where he dressed Sharon Stone and Kelly Rowland, among other celebrities.

Cristiana Cavalli, who has been working for the brand in its legal office for more than nine years, said a home collection and a sports clothing line were high on the agenda.

"We are against stream. While many tend to bring their licenses in-house, we believe we can fully express the brand's essence with new agreements that will rely on a strong connection between the licensee and the maison," said Cavalli, the designer's first-born from his first marriage.

The Roberto Cavalli group reported sales of 150 million euros in 2006, or $201.8 million, and expects growth of 25 percent this year. The brand has licenses for watches and jewelry with Sector, now owned by Morellato; for eyewear with Marcolin, for fragrances with ITF, and for innerwear and swimwear with Albisetti.One license that is doing well for the company is its Just Cavalli line, which is expected to show a 40 percent increase in sales in 2007 compared with last year. To underscore the relevance of the brand, licensed to IT Holding's Ittierre manufacturing arm, the company will present its first Just Cavalli cruise presentation in New York today, in its new Battery Park showroom. A dedicated store will open at the end of August on Fifth Avenue, with a Cavalli-style event. The brand will continue to show here, however.

"It was always my dream to open a store on Fifth Avenue, fashion's street — a mythical place for me," said the designer. The New York boutique will feature elements of the Milan store with a futuristic decor. Both were designed by architect Italo Rota. "Imagine a space shuttle, but add the brand's iconic snake images and mirrored walls," said Cavalli.

The Just Cavalli cruise collection accounts for 45 percent of the brand's sales in the U.S., and Cristiana Cavalli said she expected that figure to grow to 50 percent in 2008. There are five Just Cavalli boutiques in the U.S., two in Las Vegas; one in Bal Harbor, Fla., and two in Los Angeles. Next year, the brand will open boutiques in Atlantic City, San Diego and Boca Raton, Fla. The line is available at more than 270 points of sale in America, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

The U.S. will account for 15 percent of Just Cavalli's sales this year and Cavalli said she expected the market to account for 20 percent of the line's sales next year.

Revenues for Just Cavalli were not available as IT Holding does not break down its sales figures per license. Last fall, however, Enrico Di Muccio, president and ceo of IT USA, the U.S. branch of clothing manufacturer IT Holding, which owns the Gianfranco Ferré and Malo businesses and holds licenses with Cavalli, Versace, Costume National and John Galliano for their diffusion lines, said his goal was to double the Just Cavalli business in the next two years, to wholesale sales of $35 million.

At the time, Di Muccio said Just Cavalli, which was launched in 1997, accounted for 30 percent of IT Holding's sales, which last year reached 695.1 million euros, or $875.8 million.Cavalli noted the cruise collection would be a departure for the Just Cavalli brand, as the designer is evolving it into a more complete and sartorial line, with more daywear pieces, and moving away from the young, sexy, free-spirited image and rock 'n' roll theme of the past.

The cruise collection for spring includes leather high-waist pencil skirts, and monochrome shifts in acid colors. "We've played with layers, and also added a French-style touch, with berets and fun accessories such as golden bags," said Cavalli.

The fall ad campaign will underscore the change in the line's style. Featuring model Carmen Kass, the ads were shot by Inez van Lamsweerde in color and outdoors at night. "Kass exemplifies our new target, a woman with a strong personality, not defined by young age," said Cavalli.

Accessories, also made by Ittierre, is a category the company plans to expand for Just Cavalli, opening accessories-only stores and creating concept areas for accessories within stores. The category was launched three years ago and it has had a 50 percent increase in sales every year.

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