MILAN — Two years after acquiring Car Shoe, Prada is spicing up the footwear label with a full-fledged women’s shoe collection and the launch of handbags for next spring.

Traditionally known for its classic pebble-sole driving shoe, which was trademarked in the Sixties, the new collections include soft suede shoulder handbags in vibrant wisteria or lobster hues; sneakers and flat bags with silver or gold touches and laced-up details; hammered calf-skin open mules with wooden soles in bright apple-green or purple, and bicolored ballerinas in white and muted pastels.

Each group revolves around three main Car Shoe staples, which have been reinterpreted by the company’s design team: the pebble-soles, the bows that embellish the shoes and the rings, which are a reference to sailing.

Stefano Cantino, commercial director of Car Shoe, said it was the right moment to expand the product offering and take the company in a different direction after two years of extensive restructuring.

“A difficult economy mustn’t stop the development of a company. That’s exactly when one must seize the right opportunities for expansion,” said Cantino.

Cantino said the women’s division currently accounts for 40 percent of sales, which, compared with 2001, have grown sixfold to $3.6 million.

In the U.S., the shoes and handbags have already been picked up by Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Fred Segal, Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Boston and Janet Brown, among others.

“We are happy with the development in the U.S., where the line has been well received for its balance between glamour and classicism, and for its bourgeois style that corresponds to American expectations,” said Cantino.

In addition to two brand boutiques in Milan and Capri, Car Shoe is available at 200 sales points around the world. Cantino added the company is aiming at reaching 350 sales points by the end of next year.

“We want to maintain this brand in a niche segment of the market, and keep the artisan and handmade craftsmanship,” said Cantino. In the medium-term, the company plans to open another boutique in Italy and one elsewhere in Europe, though the region hasn’t been determined yet.Retail prices range from $240 for a thong sandal up to $385 for a medium-size handbag.

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