By  on April 17, 2006

MILAN — Aeffe is revisiting its Pollini brand.

Taking inspiration from Pollini's new ready-to-wear collection designed by Rifat Ozbek, who was tapped as creative director in 2004, Aeffe is updating the brand's accessories and has added a new eyewear license in an effort to create a more consistent message for Pollini and to expand the business globally.

Massimo Ferretti, chairman of Aeffe, the Italian manufacturer that took control of the century-old accessories brand in 2001 and that also produces collections for Alberta Ferretti, Moschino and Narciso Rodriguez, attributed the strong positioning of Pollini to the "precious contribution" of Ozbek, who has helped grow the line in terms of look and product mix.

The designer's frequent travels, which often result in exotic patterns, transfer to the new eyewear collection and accessories. The eyewear, produced and distributed by Cavrano di San Marco, Italy-based Elite Group under a six-year licensing agreement, features intricate laser-cut graphic designs and Swarovski crystals. The cases reproduce the patterns of the fabrics used in the rtw collection. Pollini eyewear for women and men will be introduced at Mido, Milan's international eyewear exhibition, next month, and will hit stores in June. Retail prices will range between $183 and $220.

The handbags and footwear have been in development since last year, with Ozbek working with French designer Myriam Schaefer on the handbag collection and with British designer Georgina Goodman on the footwear assortment. Styles began retailing this past fall.

"This team of Ozbek's friends has helped add an international edge to the line," said Ferretti, noting that Ozbek himself divides his time between London and Istanbul and Bodrum in Turkey.

In 2005, the U.S. market accounted for 10.6 percent of sales, up from 6 percent in 2003. In 2005, Pollini reported sales of 63.4 million euros, or $77.3 million, up from 53.9 million euros, or $65.7 million, the previous year.

Lincoln Moore, divisional merchandising manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, said Pollini's circle and messenger bags are already best-selling items at the department store, retailing at $820 and $935, respectively.

"I like the bags because they have a clean, modern appeal," Moore said. "It's where handbags are going right now. They are perfect for Saks, because we are very successfully going after the customer who has a great sensibility for mixing up her wardrobe. She does not want what she sees everywhere, and she's not necessarily head-to-toe."For fall, Pollini's accessories have a Sixties touch, in line with Ozbek's take on the rtw division. Soft suede, shiny patent calf leather and printed ponyskin are some of the materials employed in the accessories, in a color palette that ranges from natural brown hues to dark blue, burgundy and purple. Shapes are generally large and deconstructed, with silver accents such as chains and round closures. They sell for $300 to $1,000.

Pollini is available at 22 self-owned boutiques, 24 franchised stores, 12 in-store shops and 1,200 additional points of sale globally. Ferretti said synergies with Aeffe will help expand the brand in the Far and Middle East, as well as in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. This year, the fifth Pollini boutique will open in Beijing and the first brand store will open in Taipei, Taiwan, in September.

By spring 2007, the company plans to open boutiques in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Doha, Qatar, and Bahrain. Ferretti said he also is looking at locations in Saudi Arabia and Beirut. In 2008, a third flagship will open in Dubai. There is a brand store in the Crocus City section of Moscow, and the company is in talks to open Russian stores in Ekaterinburg and Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea.

The U.S. has been especially receptive of the Emilia, Italy-based brand. In addition to Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Scoop in New York and Fred Segal in Santa Monica, Calif., are some of the stores that will start carrying Pollini with the fall-winter 2006 collection.

"We've registered excellent results with Pollini's accessories division for fall-winter 2006," said Ferretti. "The handbag collection was received with great enthusiasm."

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