By and  on January 27, 2006

PARIS — John Galliano, as nimble with dungarees as couture gowns, is launching a second women's ready-to-wear line with Italy's IT Holding SpA.

This confirms a report in WWD Thursday and represents the latest brand extension for one of fashion's master showmen and most prolific designers. It is also a major development for IT Holding, which has been looking for new cash cows since last year, when it lost its lucrative contract for Dolce & Gabbana's D&G collection.

IT Holding, owner of Gianfranco Ferré and the licensee of lines such as Just Cavalli and Versace Jeans Couture, said the five-year Galliano license would start with the spring 2007 season. The first collection will be presented to the trade in June.

"I think this is a category with huge potential everywhere," said Sidney Toledano, president of John Galliano and chief executive officer of Christian Dior, estimating the line could generate wholesale volume in excess of 100 million euros, or $122 million at current exchange, in three to five years.

"John Galliano is able to do wonderful evening dresses, but at the same time, he's so good at streetwear," Toledano said.

The name of the collection was not disclosed, and price points have yet to be defined, but Toledano said they would be in line with other European diffusion collections and the clothes and accessories would target a young customer. Shop concepts and freestanding stores are also part of the long-range plan, he added.

IT Holding chairman and ceo Tonino Perna was not available for comment Thursday. In a statement, the company said, "The expertise and know-how in the production and distribution of ready-to-wear second lines of Ittierre [the 'young line' division of the IT Holding Group] and the creativity, inspiration and design of John Galliano are the guarantee to a successful cooperation."

Galliano was not available for comment on the new licensing pact, but Toledano said the designer toured IT Holding's facilities in Italy and was impressed with its production abilities and logistics.

Galliano has taken a measured approach to building his signature brand, famed for its bias-cut dresses and a lighthearted and romantic approach to fashion. He added eyewear and lingerie in 2001 and designer men's wear in 2003, the same year he opened his first freestanding boutique on Rue Saint-Honoré here. He shows his fall 2006 men's line tonight as men's fashion week kicks off here. Perna is expected to attend the show.IT Holding ascended to fame in the Nineties as a manufacturing power, pioneering the concept of diffusion lines such as Just Cavalli, D&G, Versus and Versace Jeans. It also bought a series of brands including Gianfranco Ferré, Malo and Romeo Gigli, which it later sold in 2004. Last July, Dolce & Gabbana announced plans to end its 12-year partnership with IT Holding and take the production of D&G in house. IT Holding's last D&G collection will be for this fall-winter 2006-2007 season. The license generates about 200 million euros, or $244 million, in sales a year, about 30 percent of IT Holding's revenue. Also last year, Versace ended its licensing pact for Versus, although Versace did offer IT Holding a deal for another diffusion line, Versace Sport.

These changes in IT Holding's license portfolio proved all the more significant since the company is still turning around an unprofitable Gianfranco Ferré. Meanwhile, IT Holding's attempt at creating an in-house brand, Exte, has earned lukewarm reviews.

Still, there appears to be plenty of buzz surrounding IT Holding. Earlier this week, Monaco-based jeweler Alberto Repossi said he bought 2 percent of the Italian firm in a bid to develop a Ferré jewelry line and launch a Repossi-branded sportswear collection. IT Holding has not yet issued a statement confirming those plans.

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