By  on July 20, 2007

BARCELONA — The fifth edition of Bread & Butter Barcelona, the Berlin-organized sportswear and contemporary apparel show, packed the fairground's vintage halls from July 4 to 6 with a record-breaking 91,000 visitors — doubling the attendance of a year ago.

Sixty-five percent of those attending came from 99 countries, said founder and managing director Karl-Heinz Muller. There were major buying groups from the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France and "significant" representation from Russia and Japan.

"We have huge public and municipal support here; we feel very much at home," said Muller, adding that there was substantial growth potential for 2008, including an increase in floor space, from 100,000 square meters to 170,000 square meters, and two additional pavilions.

Non-denim-oriented companies said their key objective was to gain greater worldwide market share through retail expansion and the introduction of new product categories.

One of the fair's weightier local exhibitors, Custodio Dalmau, designer-co-owner with brother David of Custo Barcelona, said the U.S. remains the brand's strongest market. In addition, the Barcelona-based label plans to roll out four new stores, beginning with San Antonio next month. Other locations include Tampa, Fla., Honolulu and a second shop in Puerto Rico, for a total of 12 to 14 stores. All are company-owned, "but we are actively scouting franchise partners in the U.S. for future retail ventures," he said.

The company used Bread & Butter Barcelona to launch two new product categories for spring 2008 — swimwear and handbags.

"The expanded fashion collection is one of the upcoming season's strong points," said David Dalmau. "We've always claimed we're a T-shirt manufacturer but now it's a little more....We're focusing on coordinated colors and total looks. We have a wide selection of dresses — prints, knits, silks — and lots of feminine new shapes with shine and bright colors. Viscose is a key fabric, especially for knitwear, but the quality has to be exactly right."

The 29-style swimwear collection, mainly skimpy bikinis, features metallics and the label's signature mix-match graphic patterns, with one of the season's coolest cover-ups, a multicolored bolero in treated polyester.With its special brand of Latino boho, Colcci is on the move with an ambitious retail expansion plan that includes 40 European openings within the next four years, said Anna Camprodon, European franchising manager. The Brazil-based producer of colorful tunic dresses, elongated tanks, layered tops, pants and shorts started its retail push in the U.S. last January. Anchored by a Santa Monica, Calif., showroom, the brand sells through 100 U.S. doors.

The first shop in Spain opened last month in Bilbao and another unit is set to bow in Lisbon's hip Chiado district in October.

"We have over 1,500 multibrand accounts in Europe," Camprodon said. "After [opening in] Spain and Portugal, we'll begin with Italy and then move north."

With an annual production figure of three million pieces retailing from 50 to 100 euros, or $68 to $136 at current exchange, Colcci distributes through its Brazilian network of 120 franchised stores.

Snapping up skinny tank tops at Armand Basi, Paloma Fernandez, owner of the boutique Francesca Romana on Beach, Fla.'s Worth Avenue, said she was shopping for "fresh merchandise, mainly swimwear and separates from up-and-coming European labels that nobody in the U.S. has seen. It's our little project, to bring young designer brands to the U.S."

"For high-season [December-April], everything in Palm Beach is very Lilly Pulitzer — pastel pinks, orange, fuchsia; and yellow and gray together will be hot colors, too," she said. As for Bread & Butter, "This is our second season. There is so much to see. You have to take plenty of time and look around."

An upscale Barcelona-based apparel brand, Basi continues to strengthen its retail presence, launching three franchised stores in Russia within a year, said Anna Jante, commercial director. More locations are planned for Dubai, Kuwait, Lebanon, Korea and Japan.

In addition, the company operates 14 stores in Spain and a flagship in London's Westbourne Grove.

In his third season, creative director Markus Lupfer heads up Basi's design team. His fashion philosophy, which for summer 2008 features snappy knits, tops, skirts, some dresses, patchwork, pop colors like yellow and lime and Sixties influences, has increased Basi's own-shop sales as much as 200 percent, Jante said. "In terms of increases, the London store has done the best," she added.Basi produces two women's collections, both designed by Lupfer. The namesake core line is distributed in the U.S. through MRM Showroom in New York. A three-year-old high-end line called Armand Basi One will be marketed through a deal inked last month with Showroom Seven.

"The idea is to widen our customer base," a spokesman explained. With retail tags of $500 to $3,000, Armand Basi One is targeting upscale specialty stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, he said, "And as for the acceptance of luxury prices, there is no limit." Basi's bridge line retails from $150 to $250.

Another key exhibitor, the Mallorca-based footwear firm Camper, known for its fanciful design concept, is in the midst of an aggressive expansion plan that includes opening 10 to 15 company-owned shops in the next 12 months, said Dalia Saliamonas, international marketing director.

Citing recent launches in Chile and Brazil, she said upcoming locations are mainly in Europe with Japan, Singapore and Indonesia on the drawing board. Eastern Europe, she added, is "getting stronger."

The new openings will be accompanied by "an equally aggressive" outdoor marketing campaign to include billboards and bus shelters.

Camper, which launched a kiddie line this year, operates 210 stores worldwide, including shops in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Saliamonas said.

The fair showcased young talents and lesser-known faces. Among them was Txell Miras, whose five-year-old namesake brand plays up what she calls "organic" cuts, volume and Kawakubo-like proportions in traditional black and white. The 31-year-old Catalan, who designs Neil Barrett's women's wear line, never does color for her own label.

Miras said she is scouting a showroom and representatives in Japan. The niche brand sells to the domestic market, Italy, Belgium, Hong Kong and New Zealand, with a handful of accounts in the U.S.

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