By  on May 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- Genny's new look -- pared down, less structured and simpler than in the past -- struck a positive chord with Saks Fifth Avenue flagship shoppers who attended a three-day trunk show of the fall Genny collection last week.

Held through last Thursday, the event brought in sales of $125,000. Saks began the selling with an invitational luncheon at the store for Donatella Girombelli, head of Genny Holding SpA and design director of the Genny collection.

Bestsellers included six each of an oatmeal cashmere and wool swing jacket at $1,030, and matching wrap-front miniskirt, at $235; five each of a black and four each of a brown wool crepe minidress with jewel neck and bell sleeves at $650, and five each of the black and white pindot wool long, single-breasted jacket, $720, and matching miniskirt, $240. After two years or so of intense restructuring and reorganization of management at Genny Holding, Girombelli said she sees the Genny division as better focused -- and inspired by the casual style of American sportswear. The recent changes -- which include the addition of American Rebecca Moses as the designer of the Genny collection -- are starting to have an effect on Genny Holding's volume totals as well.

The combined wholesale volume of the Genny, Complice and Byblos collections was reported at about $245 million in 1992. It was up 5 percent last year and Girombelli expects to see a 15 percent jump this year. "We're terribly excited about having her here," Philip Miller, Saks' chairman and chief executive officer, said at Girombelli's welcoming luncheon. "Her new vision and command of Genny has made all the difference in the world."

Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks, said sales of the Genny collection have turned around within the past two seasons.

"It's been sensational for us, and it's really picked up in the last eight months," she said. "It was a great resource and then we had a lull for several seasons. But I think she's refocused on the American market and addressed the needs of the working gal. It's simple, easy to understand and well priced."

In an interview at Saks, Girombelli discussed the changes at Genny, noting that she is inspired by American women's take on fashion, which she sees as more casually elegant than their European counterparts.Working closely with Rebecca Moses, whose first full efforts as the Genny designer were for this spring, Girombelli feels the line is now a succinct combination of straightforward American sportswear and Italian flair. She emphasized that Moses is under contract with Genny and will continue to work on the line, contrary to rumors that she may not be designing the collection next year.

Pointing to her own clothes -- sand-colored suede and silk pieces -- Girombelli noted that Genny's approach now includes softly constructed but tailored looks in muted, natural colors and rich fabrics. "It is because women today tend to be strong, therefore they want to dress softer," she explains, sometimes speaking English, other times asking Alejandra Cicognani, her public relations manager in the U.S., to translate from Italian for her.

"Before, when they were insecure, they felt they had to dress strong," she continued. "For me, it's important that women are strong but feminine. We don't need more men. We already have them."

Of the firm's current management, Girombelli noted that she has yet to replace Renato Agostini, the firm's managing director who resigned last fall. At the time, there was talk that his departure was related to the increasingly active role of Diego della Valle, the shoe designer and Girombelli's companion.

As she has in the past, Girombelli denied any involvement by della Valle in the firm.

"He may be my personal consultant, but that has nothing to do with the company," she said with a laugh.

Emilio Macellari, an Italian businessman with whom Girombelli is acquainted, is acting as a consultant for the company now, although she said she is anxious to find a new managing director. As for the firm's other divisions, Girombelli said, the Byblos line -- still designed by Keith Varty and Alan Cleaver, who are consultants to the firm and free to work on outside contracts -- has been doing better in terms of sales in the U.S. and Europe. But Girombelli is currently looking for a commercial director for the division, particularly to oversee export sales. She said she is pleased with her relationship with Complice designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce, and expects to renew their contract when it comes up next year. Girombelli is also putting her energies into a full collection of eveningwear, Genny Ono, which she said will debut in July for resort delivery. While there are eveningwear pieces in the current Genny collection, Girombelli said she has had requests from retailers and customers for more."I want to make it a real line, especially elegant and traditional, with lace, that sort of thing," she said. "I may have a consultant for this, but I will not bring in a designer."

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