By  on October 5, 2005

PARIS — Major construction is under way on the Faubourg Saint Honore here for a new Givenchy flagship, suggesting the French house, after many topsy-turvy years, has found a solid foundation on which to build its future.

So said chief executive Marco Gobbetti, who reported strong reaction to designer Riccardo Tisci's pre-spring collection, which attracted orders from the likes of Barneys New York and Jeffrey, Maxfield in Los Angeles, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges in London, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Maria Luisa, L'Eclaireur and Le Bon Marché in Paris.

Not bad for a label that, despite having strong brand recognition internationally, has been "a bit outside the circle" when it came to distribution in the fashion world's leading capitals and stores, Gobbetti acknowledged.

"We planted a very good seed," he said. "And I think the potential for development is really, really big, for ready-to-wear and for accessories."

Tisci, 30, is slated to present his first full-scale collection on the runway today, only six months after the relatively unknown Italian was plucked to become Givenchy's fifth designer in the past 10 years. Gobbetti said buyers should expect to see a new direction in accessories to match Tisci's modern, edgy approach to the French label.

Gobbetti acknowledged Tisci was widely viewed as a risky hire and passing the couture test with critics and clients was a critical step.

"It clearly demonstrated he could do couture. This was one of the questions everyone had," Gobbetti said.

He also reiterated that Givenchy, part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury empire, is "100 percent committed" to maintaining couture. While the July presentation, with models positioned in various rooms at its Avenue George V headquarters, might have given the impression of a cost-saving measure or retrenchment, Gobbetti said that was not the case. "It wasn't so easy [to convert our offices to a show space]," he said. "It was in-house because we wanted to show change was coming from within."

Gobbetti said he was also emboldened by buyer reaction to the pre-collection, which included jersey dresses with transformable necklines, lean pants with corset-like waistbands and soft jackets with zippered lapels. Total sales were double versus a year ago and "we could have sold even more," Gobbetti said. "We kept it very limited, very selective. I judge more from the quality of distribution we were able to attract."

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