By  on January 7, 1994

MILAN -- Dolce & Gabbana is growing up.

Eight years after Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana unveiled their first fashion-forward styles, the operation has evolved into a diversified company with annual sales of $85 million and ambitious expansion plans.

The quantum leap occurred last fall when Dolce & Gabbana signed a production and licensing accord with Ittierre SpA to produce a new line of sportswear for young men and women called D&G -- their first step into the diffusion market.

The sales target for the line is $267 million (450 billion lire at current exchange rates) over the six-year term of the deal.

But the firm has other irons in the fire as well, the hottest being a new collection called Dolce & Gabbana Basic, licensed to Dolce Saverio, the Sicily-based apparel firm owned by Domenico Dolce's father.

"The name itself says what it is -- the basics of Dolce & Gabbana -- and it will be a collection that doesn't exist now in any part of the world," said Michela Crosa, the company's 28-year-old commercial director, who has been with the designers since the start.

Basic, priced 30 to 50 percent below the signature line, will be initially distributed through Dolce & Gabbana's Via Sant'Andrea shop here on a test basis starting January 10, and will also be sold by Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Crosa said.

The new lines reflect Dolce & Gabbana's belief that their name is now widely known, and that it's time to solidify that identity -- both in terms of design and the business. "They still want to be trendy, directional, but whereas before the element of newness was emphasized at all costs, now we also want to establish what has become known as 'ours,"' Crosa said.

"They want to establish and be known for their own style, and this is the logic they are following -- not only in terms of design but in terms of production, investments, everything," she added.

Their biggest bet -- the new line with Ittierre -- will make its debut with a showroom presentation during the men's designer shows in Milan this month, while the women's collection will be brought out during the women's shows in the spring.

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