PARIS — Italian designer Antonio Marras, no stranger to color and prints, will show his first collection for Kenzo next March in Paris for fall 2004.

The French fashion house, part of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, named Marras artistic director for women’s products, confirming a report in these columns Tuesday. “His universe is very close to Kenzo, very poetic, with a lot of blending of influences, fabrics, colors and symbols,” Vincent Huguenin, president and chief executive of Kenzo, said in an interview Thursday. “His are clothes that tell a story, but in a contemporary way.”

Based in Alghero, on the northern coast of Sardinia, Marras, 41, launched his fashion career in Rome, introducing a signature ready-to-wear line in 1999. He plans to continue showing that collection in Milan, where he consults for the label, Trend Les Copains.

Marras said he has a strong affinity to Kenzo: its mix-and-match fabrics, blend of Eastern and Western influences and key shapes, such as the kimono.

He said he hopes to bring “more poetry” to the house and safeguard its reputation for color, though “I still believe in black,” he noted.

Marras succeeds Gilles Rosier, who joined the house as women’s wear designer in 1999 when founder Kenzo Takada retired after 30 years in the business. Rosier’s last Kenzo collection, for spring 2004, will be shown by appointment during Paris fashion week in October.

At present, the Kenzo business is roughly split between Europe and Asia, with a network of 60 freestanding stores and about 200 other sales points, Huguenin said, declining to give sales figures.

Kenzo has retreated from the U.S. market recently. Last year, it shuttered its location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and a unit in New York’s SoHo is slated to go dark at the end of the year, a Kenzo spokeswoman said.

However, Huguenin said he hopes to rebuild a presence in the U.S. Last May, Kenzo opened a 6,500-square-foot flagship in Paris in a move to increase the brand’s fashion profile on the international stage.

The Kenzo businesses, including fragrances, were acquired by LVMH in 1993 for $80.5 million.

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