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Europe Watch: Feeling Flush … Go East … Lucky Break …

FEELING FLUSH: Marzotto, owner of the Valentino and Hugo Boss fashion houses, said its sales for the quarter ended March 31 rose 3.4 percent to $593.9 million, aided by the consolidation of Valentino, which it bought in spring 2002. Clothing accounted...

FEELING FLUSH: Marzotto, owner of the Valentino and Hugo Boss fashion houses, said its sales for the quarter ended March 31 rose 3.4 percent to $593.9 million, aided by the consolidation of Valentino, which it bought in spring 2002. Clothing accounted for 86 percent of the total with textiles comprising the balance. Marzotto reiterated that Valentino is still on track to break even in 2004. In 2002, Valentino widened its operating loss to $13.8 million from a loss of $3 million the year before. Sales rose to $149.4 million from $144.7 million. — Amanda Kaiser

GO EAST: Eager to speak to an international audience, Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Georgian designers gathered forces recently to show their fall collections. The second edition of Russian Fashion Week wrapped up in Moscow April 14. Recently focused on making clothes for individual clients, many designers joined the biannual runway spectacle to attract attention and orders from abroad. Barneys New York and Liberty already carry such labels as Darya Razumihina. “I see that in the West there is growing interest to Eastern designers,” observed a spokesman for the Systeme D fashion showroom in Paris. “They have lots of creativity and are less influenced by the big names in the fashion industry. I feel that they can do well not only in the local market but in Europe and the U.S. as well.” — Olga Zaretskaya

LUCKY BREAK: Prisma Press, a French magazine publisher, is set to launch what it’s billing as a merchandise mover: Shopping. The magazine will cover all aspects of fashion, beauty and culture from a consumer standpoint, offering pointers on best deals and addresses for shopping in major cities in France and throughout Europe. The debut 132-page May issue, devoted to Brussels, sells for $2.70. The initial print run is 400,000 copies. Prisma plans to publish three issues this year as a test, with the intent of increasing the frequency. — Emilie Marsh

FASHION ANARCHY: Arkadius, the London-based Polish designer with a boutique near Marble Arch, is launching a jeans collection called Arkadius Anarchy. It is slated to bow May 16 during the grand opening of a 1,000-square-foot boutique on Mokotowksa Street in central Warsaw. Arkadius, whose edgy styles have been worn by the likes of Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera, says he plans to show a new jeanswear collection to retail buyers in September and ultimately roll out to new markets. The designer described his jeans as “avant-garde, but sexy and glamorous.” He plans to produce no more than 50 units of each style. Arkadius, short for Arkadiusz Weremczuk, studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London and later apprenticed under Alexander McQueen. — Helen Burggraf

LOOKING DOWN: Eyewear maker De Rigo saw its 2002 net profit halve to $11.6 million from $23.2 million on declining profitability at its British retail chain, Dollond & Aitchison, and an operating loss at EID, its joint venture with Prada. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates. De Rigo had already reported sales for the year ended Dec. 31, showing a 1.4 percent jump to $559.6 million from $551.7 million in 2001. Operating profit at D&A fell to $1.6 million from $13.4 million the year before, as De Rigo cited difficult market conditions in the U.K. and logistical problems while it reorganized lens production. De Rigo did not release revenue figures for the chain, but said sales dropped 4.6 percent.

EID posted an operating loss of $982,620 compared with an operating profit of $436,720 in 2001, as it shifted distribution and lowered prices. Sales declined 2.5 percent to $34.2 million from $35.1 million. — A.K.

DOUBLING UP: Tom Ford’s empire of next-generation Gucci stores has seen London’s Bond Street location double in size. Unveiled earlier this month, the new store replaces the original unit just across the street, and spans three floors of retail space for a total of 7,500 square feet. It follows launches of new-look stores in New York, Paris and Milan. The store houses the complete range of Gucci products, as well as made-to-measure services for handbags, men’s shoes and men’s suits.— Ellen Burney

COLOR OF VICTORY: After five years of litigation, Benetton announced last week that it had won its libel suit against the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. The Italian sportswear company launched the lawsuit following a series of articles in 1998 alleging that Benetton’s Turkish licensee employed children in its factory and that Benetton approved of this practice to cut costs. The Tribunal Court of Milan found the articles to be “gravely erroneous” and libelous. A sentence is expected within the next two months. In a statement, Benetton said “it trusts that this sentence, which fully re-establishes the facts and the correctness and transparency of Benetton’s social and ethical conduct, will receive a level of visibility capable of counterbalancing, at least in part, the serious damage to its image.” — Courtney Colavita

TV TIMES: Karstadt-Quelle, Europe’s largest department store and mail-order business, is joining forces with Swiss investor Hans-Dieter Cleven and German media company EM.TV to buy the German DSF sports television station from the bankrupt KirchMedia Group. This isn’t Karstadt-Quelle’s first foray into the world of television. The Essen-based group has a stake in Home Shopping Europe AG, jointly produces a travel program, “Neckermann’s Vacation World” with the German station, Tele5, and also is working with Sony on setting standards for digital interactive TV.

As for its core retail business, Karstadt-Quelle expects a downturn in operating earnings for 2003. In 2002, earnings before goodwill depreciation and taxes on income shrank to $316.2 million compared with $412.1 million, while sales dipped 1.6 percent to $17 billion. The company is not releasing first-quarter figures, as Easter falls in the second quarter this year, but expects sales for the first four months of 2003 to reach last year’s levels. — Melissa Drier

COMEBACK KID: Seeking reinvention, historic Italian brand Lancetti has tapped the young emerging Brazilian designer, Icarius de Menezes, as creative director. His first collection for the house will be shown during Milan fashion week in September and the designer also will oversee the brand’s 20 licenses. Pino Lancetti, who launched his ready-to-wear in 1961, was known for collections inspired by such artists as Matisse, Picasso and Kandinskij. He retired in 1999. De Meneze succeeds designer Enzo Fusco. De Menezes, of Greek and German origin, launched his first signature collection in Paris three years ago and was one of the five finalists in the Enkamania international design competition held last year in Milan. — Luisa Zargani

TWO FOR THE ROAD: Zara, the prolific Spanish brand, has added two more stores — in Orlando, Fla., and Madrid — to its ever-growing retail roster. The total is 536. The new U.S. unit in the Mall Millenia is Zara’s ninth store on American shores. In Madrid, the new Serrano location is the Spanish capital’s second-largest Zara store, with about 28,000 square feet of selling space over five floors. Sales projections were not available for either unit. Next stop? Singapore, opening within a few weeks in spite of the killer-pneumonia scare. Meanwhile, word has it that Zara parent company Inditex will soon be bringing its junior-focused Bershka retail concept to Benelux and France. — Barbara Barker