By  on May 24, 2007

NEW YORK — Images of James Dean and Fifties Americana were among the inspirations from which the late Claudio Buziol drew when he launched Italian denim and contemporary label Replay in 1978 at the age of 21. Today, the company is gearing up to expand its presence here and, in the process, make Americans more familiar with the Replay story.

Marco Bortoletti, the denim and contemporary sportswear label's chief executive officer, and Silvia Buziol, the owner, and founder's daughter, visited the company's SoHo flagship here on May 2 to fete the launch of the new limited edition Replay Collectors line that will come out with a new line three or four times a year for the next two years, with a production of about 4,000 pieces. The SoHo event also marked the unofficial American debut of "The Power of the Dream," a biography of Claudio Buziol and Replay.

In an interview, Bortoletti shared his thoughts on the American market and the company's plans for expansion and Buziol spoke of her father's legacy and her own plans to carry on the Replay tradition.

"The American market is very big and strong," said Bortoletti.

While there may be indications of a pullback in the premium denim sector, Bortoletti believes it has only created more room for an established brand like Replay to move forward.

"We believe our brand is in the right moment to come into the market because Americans like creativity and Italian style," he said.

Hundreds of denim labels have spent the past several years scrambling to cash in on the premium craze. Replay has undoubtedly benefited but also used that time to steadily build its business and round out its product assortment into a full collection. In 2004, the company launched We-R-Replay, a men's and women's collection of denim and apparel priced between 30 and 50 percent higher than the signature brand. A Replay store also opened at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., in the fall of 2005, followed by stores in Los Angeles and Aventura, Fla., in 2006.

Bortoletti stressed that the U.S. expansion will continue to be a step-by-step process. The company plans to open new stores in Las Vegas and Miami in the near future.Bortoletti acknowledged that the high price of Replay's offerings — ranging from $150 for denim to $250 and up for sportswear — will likely prevent the brand from achieving mass appeal and recognition. However, he said the focus is on building a loyal and knowledgeable consumer base here.

"Our market will not be so big, but will be…a quality market," he said. "Our strategy is to remain in the premium level, which means not quantity but quality."

Bortoletti and Replay will be relying on Paolo Fassina, the newly appointed head of Replay USA, to help achieve its goals. Fassina assumed responsibility for U.S. operations in April and has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, 10 of them with Ermenegildo Zegna, where he was a general manager of the company's retail division. At Zegna, he also served a stint as vice president of communications, spearheading marketing and advertising for U.S. retail and wholesale businesses. Most recently, Fassina has been running an international consulting company. Bortoletti said Fassina's first task will be to ensure that the brand is merchandised with top-tier wholesale clients.

For Silvia Buziol, the story of her father's life and that of Replay is rooted in a desire to capture and build on an American sensibility.

"The idea was America, that was their point of view and what they were inspired by, so it would be a fascinating view for Americans," said Buziol, referring to the early Eighties when her father became a part of Adriano Goldschmied's Genius Group, the company that gave birth to the Replay and Diesel brands.

Beppe Donazzan, a sports journalist who wrote "The Power of the Dream," also delves into Claudio Buziol's early infatuation with America. Iconic photos of Dean — one in particular from "Rebel Without a Cause" with Dean leaning against a brick wall, his right arm cocked and resting on his hip, a cigarette in hand and a high cuff on the legs of his jeans — sparked his imagination and sent him on weekly trips to the movie theater to watch American movies.

Buziol even convinced his friends to travel to a bar near one of Italy's biggest American Air Force bases that he knew soldiers frequented in the hopes of experiencing a little of what he saw in the movies."They felt like strangers and sat waiting for something to happen," writes Donazzan. "In the big room, the soldiers chatted quietly, sipping beer or Coca- Cola. No one even noticed them and they were dismayed. The brawls and fights were only in their imagination."

Buziol believes the story of her father is a simple one: "My father had a dream to realize…so I think this book is an opportunity for people to read a nice story and realize their own dreams."

Claudio Buziol died in 2005 at the age of 47 as a result of a heart attack, but the passion and drive that moved him has clearly been passed on to his daughter. The 24-year-old is currently studying fashion management at the London College of Fashion and is eager to start making her own impact on Replay.

"I'm so focused on this. I need to achieve that goal," said Silvia, who has two years of school left. "Once I can start working in the company, this will be the real training for me."

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