By and  on March 4, 2002

MILAN -- It was a brief affair. Cerruti and designer Roberto Menichetti have split after only six months. But Menichetti is wasting no time and is gearing up to launch his own line, which he plans to show in New York in September.

Menichetti had landed at Cerruti after abruptly deciding not to renew his contract with Burberry because of creative differences.

Gianluigi Facchini, president of Fin.part, parent of Cerruti, said the decision to split was mutual and downplayed any friction or tension between himself and Menichetti. "There is nothing dramatic about this decision, but I feel a certain sadness about the outcome of the Cerruti project, which has a lot of potential," Facchini told WWD. "I realized Menichetti was very focused on the launch of his own line, which is legitimate, but that was not part of our agreement. Cerruti is a project that needs full attention and dedication," said Facchini, adding that he had planned on backing Menichetti's own line in the future, as a "good will intention."

The news comes following the announcement that Cerruti's women's collection for fall/winter wouldn't be shown in Paris next week. Facchini said that, while the fall/winter 2002 collection for Cerruti 1881 was delivered by the designer and is selling well, the Cerruti collection for the same season was "not ready yet." Cerruti 1881 was produced in Italy for the first time. The line was previously produced by Kemper, an Escada subsidiary. However, Menichetti's first Cerruti men's collection was presented in January, garnering positive reviews for his modern tailoring.

"We had a different vision of Cerruti's future and also a different idea on strategies," said Menichetti. "It was more honest for me to leave. It is very important to focus on something one believes in," he said. While Menichetti confirmed he had been working on his own project, he denied neglecting Cerruti. "We are so ahead because my project started when I started with Cerruti, but I dedicated myself wholly to Facchini," said Menichetti.

A source close to the company observed that both Menichetti and Facchini have strong personalities: "I don't think they really got along. Menichetti is a true creative artist, I guess you can't expect him to follow the rules by the book and perhaps he didn't plan all the company lines in time."Another source said: "We thought Menichetti really understood Nino Cerruti's philosophy, his values, his love of fabrics, the understated elegance, and he wanted to give continuity to the line. But Cerruti is not Burberry: It's a lifestyle brand, with four men's and women's lines, a jeans line, accessories, perfumes. It needs a creative director perfectly in tune and cohesive with the industrial machine. The line has priorities, and a precise production timing."

Facchini said he had tried his best to keep Menichetti happy. "The recent appointment of Silvano Storer as chief executive of Fin.part was part of this effort," said Facchini. "The company is not unprepared; Cerruti has its own structure, which has been reinforced in these past few months," said Facchini. Speculation has begun, meanwhile, on whether Istvan Francer will replace Menichetti. Francer already designs Maska and his own line for Fin.part. "Istvan Francer is surely an option that we are evaluating, but we also have other designer names we are considering," said Facchini. "I am convinced the contribution of outside designers is important, but it is as important to have a product and design structure functioning within the company."

Menichetti said his line will be backed by private investment funds in the U.S. and in Europe. The designer said this is a "personal brand" and his plans are, to say the least, ambitious: a "new concept of fashion and design," aimed at a global, but not mass market. "The world changed dramatically after Sept. 11 and will never be the same," he said, adding that he plans to study the influence of history, anthropology, and religion, among others. "My philosophy is that aesthetics are always connected to functionality and my vision is a marriage between aesthetics and functionality. I want to find new ways for people to be at ease," said Menichetti. In September, the designer plans to open his first store, "Menichetti," in Milan, followed by New York, San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo. In the U.S., the designer said he will market the line to better department stores, such as Barneys.

"New York is a return to my origins -- I was born in Buffalo," said Menichetti. "New York is in my DNA and I've always wanted to show a collection in New York. There is also another reason: The Americans understand me. I've always been welcomed by them," said Menichetti, who plans to live between New York and San Francisco. "Paris, however, will always be a reference point for me." The designer's family company in Gubbio, Umbria, will produce the men's and women's collection. "I will blend the American influence with the artisanal skills of the laboratories in Gubbio," said Menichetti.The clothing line will include a limited edition division and a more technical line. There will also be a design division, with a line of home accessories. Menichetti, who has a passion for motorcycles, plans to later add covers for two-wheelers and windsurf sails. "It will be a brand for my world. We also have projects in the electronics and virtual reality worlds," said Menichetti.

In 1997 Burberry chief executive Rose Marie Bravo tapped Menichetti from Jil Sander's men's design studio to develop the high-end Prorsum collection.

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