By  on September 20, 2007

MILAN — Antonio Marras said Wednesday that he has signed a licensing agreement with Gibò to produce and distribute his women's and men's collections, beginning with the fall 2008 season.

Gibò already holds licenses with Hussein Chalayan, Viktor & Rolf, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Antonio Berardi. As Berardi is considered a British designer, Marras is the first Italian to be part of the Gibò stable.

"Marras is the right fit for what we do," said Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò.

Marras said he was banking on Gibò's "great credibility and professionalism in fashion, the high fashion content of its brands, its customer service and punctual deliveries," and, furthermore, Pené's respect for creativity. "It's a dream come true," he added.

The designer said 2007 was "the year that makes the difference." In May, Marras bought back his 40 percent share from BVM SpA, which produces Les Copains, and, in June, signed a licensing deal with Italian manufacturing firm Interfashion, owned by Stefanel Group, to launch a diffusion line.

Marras, who is known for his handcrafted pieces, intricate embroideries and experimental fabrics, has also been creative director of the women's Kenzo line for four years.

Marras, who launched his brand at Rome's couture shows in 1996, has a small business, with sales of about 15 million euros, or $20.8 million at current exchange, and relies on two brand stores and 200 points of sale around the world. Pené said he plans to double Marras' sales in the next three years.

The executive told WWD that he also has signed an agreement to buy a leather goods manufacturer, the Tuscan Frassinetti, which has been working with Prada for more than 20 years, and is working on an agreement to take control of Parma, Italy-based Corporate, a clothing manufacturer that produces for Fendi, Donna Karan and Vivienne Westwood, among others. In 2004, Gibò bought Maglificio Erika Srl, which specializes in high-end knits for brands such as Hermès and Christian Dior, and the following year, it took control of footwear manufacturer Iris, which produces shoes for Chloé, Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith, Viktor & Rolf, John Galliano and Véronique Branquinho."We have completed our strategic development, which was to create an industrial network, providing clothing, knitwear, footwear and now leather goods in the high-end range of the market," said Pené.

In 2007, the company expects sales of 120 million euros, or $166.4 million, and forecasts sales of $200 million in 2008.

"We are looking at buying or partnering with a brand that can use our structure across the board," said Pené, noting how an interesting group of young designers is emerging in the U.S. He said he is planning to further penetrate the American market.

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