By  on August 9, 2005

BERLIN — Hugo Boss AG is in a party mood — and has lots to celebrate.

With Boss Black women's wear sales expected to break the $100 million barrier this year, the Metzingen, Germany fashion group recently turned Berlin into Boss town, presenting a launch triple-header of Boss Orange Woman, a new retail format for Hugo and the men's skin care range, Boss Skin.

Never a company to do things on a small scale, Boss took over the entire Deutsche Oper (German opera) for the Orange debut. Globally, Boss throws a party about once a week, and "The Night at the Opera" was definitely the hottest ticket in town during the Bread & Butter and Premium fairs here late last month, not to mention Boss' "blockbuster of the year," according to chief executive officer Bruno Sälzer.

"Or it should be, if you look at the costs," he quipped in the models' relaxation lounge a few hours before the event, politely declining to put a price tag on the proceedings.

However, he was quite willing to talk numbers when it came to Boss' growing women's business. This year should see Boss Black women's sales hitting 90 million euros, or $111 million at current exchange rates, up 30 percent from 2004. While that still represents only 8 percent of total Boss sales of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.6 billion (Hugo women is close to 10 percent), "we're coming from nowhere; plus we had a relaunch — we were dead," Sälzer said. "So it's a good performance."

And not all that small, he pointed out, noting that at 100 million euros, or $123 million, the combined Boss Black and Hugo women's wear businesses are larger than Strenesse or Jil Sander.

"At least we know the direction to go in. We're getting better and better in fit, overall quality and the needs of specific markets. Now it's a question of fine-tuning, and experience," he said.

And new categories, like Boss Orange for women.

The collection will be positioned similarly to the sportier men's Boss Orange line, with prices just below Boss Black. Leisure or casual looks generate 42 percent of Boss men's sales, and half of that is Boss Orange, Sälzer explained. "Our number-one product after suits is jeans. We sell 2.5 million pairs a year, and at least in Europe, we've more or less developed our own category. Retailers talk about the Orange segment," he said.

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