NOT SO RESERVED: Economic growth rates well above those seen elsewhere in Europe are giving fashion retailers in Central Europe a boost and helping the region’s first homegrown brands get off the ground. Poland’s LPP, trading under the brand name Reserved, has emerged as a leader with pan-regional ambitions. The company’s casual wear targets the 17- to 27-age bracket with affordable and smart designs selling at some 50 proprietary outlets in Poland. With their bright and spacious store design, Reserved is a retailer that is helping set new standards in this rapidly developing market place.

Reserved expects to open 20 additional stores in Poland this year, at a time when competition is heating up in earnest with international retailers, such as H&M, entering the market. On the back of this continued expansion the company reckons that its turnover will hit the $100 million mark this year. Beyond Poland, Reserved is now present with 12 outlets in six other Eastern European markets, including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia. Over the next two years, Reserved wants to triple the number of its international stores to around 35, concentrating mainly on Central and Eastern Europe for the foreseeable future. — Poul Larsen

PLAYBOY, ITALIAN STYLE: There’s a touch of Italy in the new Playboy accessories. Playboy Enterprises and Diana SpA, based outside Vicenza, in northeastern Italy, signed a five-year licensing agreement for production and distribution in the U.S. and Canada of Playboy bags, belts and small leather goods. The line, a spin-off of the men’s magazine, bowed for spring and is distributed in about 2,000 sales points, such as Gadzooks and Hot Topic, retailing between $25 and $60. “There is a huge graphic archive to draw inspiration from and we keep an eye on fashion trends, but the logo and the Playboy rabbit must always be visible,” said Federico Nuti, who owns the company with his sister Ilaria Nuti. The accessories are aimed at ages 14 to 25. “There is a great growth potential because it’s a universally known label,” said Nuti, who expects net sales of at least $3 million in the first year, with a 20 percent increase annually thereafter. The company plans to produce between 300,000 and 400,000 pieces a year. This is the first license for Diana SpA, which also produces accessories under the Nuti label. — Luisa ZarganiFINDING FIORUCCI: Fiorucci fans may stop mourning. A few weeks after Elio Fiorucci’s decision to close his store in Milan, the designer is looking for a new location. “Customers have been calling and demanding that we reopen,” said Fiorucci in a phone interview. “And I was unhappy at the thought of losing my customers.”

As reported, after 36 years in business, in July Fiorucci will hand over its space to the first Hennes & Mauritz store in Italy.

Meanwhile, Fiorucci is keeping busy. He just designed the interior of Citroen’s Berlingo model, “Loved by Fiorucci,” in fluorescent yellow and anthracite. — L.Z.

MORE PUCCI: Saint Tropez is even more glamorous now, with the opening of a Pucci boutique, inaugurated Friday. While in line with its other stores recently opened in Paris and Florence, the boutique, designed by Lena Pessoa & Vudafieri Partners, has a local atmosphere: lights in aqua tones and a vaulted ceiling, typical of the city’s cantina-style construction. This is the ninth Pucci boutique worldwide. — L.Z.

BOATENG’S BIG YEAR: Savile Row tailor Ozwald Boateng, known for his punchy colors and funky takes on the classics, is set to expand in more ways than one. The bespoke men’s wear designer who is a favorite with soccer players and film stars, will launch his first signature fragrance in the U.K. this fall. Fall 2003 will also see the opening of his first store outside the U.K., on Madison Avenue. A larger retail opening will follow in Moscow next year, although a spokeswoman for Boateng declined to give further details about the stores. Boateng is also in talks for a Tokyo unit. Next month, the designer will launch his first range of men’s casual wear, to hit Britain in July, the result of a licensing deal with Marchpole. The spokeswoman said a women’s wear collection is in the works, but will not debut before December 2004. — Ellen Burney

GUESS WHO’S COMING?: Guess U.S.A. opened its first freestanding store in Spain last month, in Madrid’s shop-heavy Salamanca area. The 2,000-square-foot, single-story location features a new interior concept, said Beatriz Rojo, the store’s manager. “No more red and black,” she said. Designed by Italy-based architect Massimo Materase, the store combines a neutral palette of sand and beige with washed and lacquered finishes and contemporary texture mixes such as wood, chrome and glass. The new locale carries a full range of Guess women’s, men’s, children’s and accessories. Rojo declined to give first-year projections but said Guess is scouting additional Spanish locations. — Barbara BarkerWOOLY, MAMMOTH: Horses and sheep usually don’t mix, but Sergio and Pier Luigi Loro Piana brought both together for a weekend of sport and pride. For the third year in a row, the brothers behind the Italian luxury brand feted some of New Zealand and Australia’s most prized wool farmers.

During an intimate dinner at the Regency Hotel here last week, the brothers presented Gary and Kay Wilson with their 2002 World Wool Record Challenge Cup.

The Wilson’s farm in New South Wales, Australia, cranked out a 207-pound bale of wool that had an average measurement of 12.1 microns — or a fiber actually finer than cashmere. “It’s really about genetics,” said Gary Wilson, who with three other couples runs the elite Highlander farm. “Our sheep live inside, wear a protective nylon coat and listen to classical music when they are fed,” he joked.

Loro Piana paid just over $100,000 for the bale (converted from euros at current exchange). Since a finer lot has replaced the Highlander bale this year, it can now go into production and will be used to create 50 made-to-measure suits.

The prize, developed by Loro Piana to encourage wool farmers to push the fineness envelope, is awarded each year to farmers from New Zealand and Australia.

The following day, the farmers attended the very blue blood Piazza Di Sienna equestrian competition at the Villa Borghese here. They sipped Bellinis alongside Roman nobility and watched Loro Piana’s team compete in the national jumping event. — Courtney Colavita

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