By  on December 16, 2004

MILAN — Kenzo Takada describes his first beachwear collection under the Gokan Kobo label as a “happy, joyful” collection for “12 months of sun.”

Takada joined forces earlier this year with the Italian silk manufacturer Ratti, which is  known for its colorful prints and its long-standing relationship with fashion designers such as Versace, Valentino and Gianfranco Ferré, to produce and distribute his new line.

Under the terms of the three-year license, Ratti will deliver a finished product and not merely supply the fabrics. “A year ago, I was called in to oversee a new finished product division for fashion and accessories,” said Bertrand Thiry, director of the division, during an interview at the Ratti headquarters outside Como, an hour’s drive from Milan. “We created this division to meet our clients’ requests for finished products.” Ratti also produces and distributes Gokan Kobo’s tie and scarf line as well as Leonard’s swimsuit collection. 

“Ratti immediately understood what I had in mind, and were happy to start on this new adventure,” said Takada, who is based in Paris.

After an initial production of ties and scarves for fall 2004, Ratti will deliver the Gokan Kobo beach and accessories collection, due to bow for spring 2005, in January. The swimwear line includes three bikinis and four one-piece swimsuits developed in patterns such as florals, tie-dye and stripes, as well as ethnic Asian and African designs and animal prints. It also has cotton boxy shirts and pareos and viscose T-shirts in the same patterns. Thiry noted that the designer wanted very simple pieces that focused on proportions and fit. “This is a mix-and-match collection, with colors and patterns that can be easily combined,” said Thiry.

Takada launched the Gokan Kobo label in March, following his retirement four years ago from the Kenzo house he founded, now owned by LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and designed by Antonio Marras. Gokan Kobo in Japanese means “study of the five senses,” and the brand’s logo is Takada’s family seal: a five-petal campanula. Each petal corresponds to a separate division: Touch, the ties and scarf collection also produced by Ratti; beachwear; ready-to-wear; home, and a fragrance. Takada is still fine-tuning production of rtw, home and fragrance. A brand store is scheduled to open early next year in Paris.According to Lucia Moretti, product manager at Ratti, Takada takes a hands-on approach and injects his own personality and views on life. “Here is a joyful message through which the designer transmits his desire to live, in a straight, nonconceptual way,” said Moretti.

Swimsuits wholesale at around $75, while accessories range from $25 for a pair of flip-flops to $39 for hats and $70 for a large shopping bag. Ratti will introduce towels next year, said Thiry.

Thiry said he expects sales of 25,000 pieces, equaling 1.5 million euros, or about $2 million at current exchange rates, by the end of the first three-year contract. With the spring 2005 collection, the line will be carried in 250 points of sale, including stores such as Bergdorf Goodman in the U.S., Harrods and Harvey Nichols in England and Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and Frank Ete et Fils in France. In three years, Thiry expects the line to be carried at 450 points of sale.

Ratti, which was founded in 1946 by the late Antonio Ratti and is now managed by his daughter Donatella Ratti, reported sales of 115 million euros, or $153.2 million, last year.

Thiry said Ratti is “not interested” in developing a large group of licenses with different designers, but would rather fully expand a designer’s potential with varied and more complete collections. “It is a way to optimize resources and costs, and create synergies within the division,” he added.

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