By  on December 13, 2005

NEW YORK — After celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, fur company Giuliana Teso is embarking on initiatives to secure the next chapter of growth for the Vicenza, Italy-based firm.

Carlo Teso, president of GT USA, the U.S. arm of the company and founder Giuliana Teso's son, stopped in New York last week to outline some of the strategic changes of the last few seasons. These include the recent split of the collection into two tiers according to price; the implementation of a design team to further diversify the collection; an effort to brand the collection in the U.S. through advertising, and plans for boutiques and store-in-store concepts worldwide.

Much has changed since Giuliana Teso launched the collection 25 years ago. The company has worldwide wholesale sales of $20 million, and a reputation for exquisite furs, from sable to mink and broadtail. The designer has become known for treating furs like regular fabrics by weaving, piercing or embroidering them. The fall collection, for instance, drew from Russia's fin de siècle Imperial courts, and used sable, chinchilla, astrakhan, Persian lamb and mink, sometimes trimming them with pearls or Swarovski crystals. This holiday, the company offers an unusual 24-karat gold sprayed jacket with a sable trim for $17,000 at Neiman Marcus.

To better serve its retail accounts, the company split the collection into the couture-level Black Label and White Label last year, with wholesale prices from $2,400 to $80,000, and $700 to $3,500, respectively.

In addition, it recently hired a full design team culled globally to enhance the collection and add categories, from its core business fur to fur accessories such as handbags and ready-to-wear. The label has always peppered its runway shows with rtw looks, but never seriously wholesaled them until now.

"Now, we're in a total-look situation, with furs, handbags, ready-to-wear and, in select markets like Europe and Saudi Arabia, home accessories," Carlo Teso said.

With such an array of merchandise, the company is ready to embark on its next step, which is building a network of boutiques, shop-in-shops and in-store corners in Korea, Japan, Russia, Dubai and other countries. There are already two such Giuliana Teso corners in the U.S., at Neiman Marcus in Los Angeles and in San Francisco. These corners carry the Black and White labels, including rtw and accessories. More such corners are expected to open at other Neiman Marcus branches soon. In the U.S., the company sells to 25 Neiman Marcus doors, as well as 50 specialty stores. In the U.S., it has wholesale volume of about $7 million.To help drive U.S. sales, the firm embarked on an advertising strategy for the first time last fall in September in issues of W and Vogue (both, like WWD, are part of Condé Nast Publications Inc.).

"We wanted to be a well-kept secret, like an Aston Martin car that only a certain type of person knows," Teso recalled. "Now that we're growing, we want to brand the label."

As for potentially strong areas of growth in the future, Teso added: "The core business is furs, and accessories are extremely important for our future. Rtw is a complement."

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