By  on January 12, 2006

ASOLO, Italy — It's been almost a year since Claudio Buziol, president of Fashion Box Group and the founder and creative force behind the Replay denim and sportswear brand, died of a heart attack at age 47.

As Replay marks its 25th anniversary this year, a team of designers and executives is working to ensure that Buziol's vision endures.

"There was a real, deep concern [for the future of the company], as Claudio was our mentor and a driving force for us," Attilio Biancardi, chairman of Fashion Box, said during an interview at company headquarters here, a three-hour drive east of Milan. "But he had created a management and design structure around him."

Biancardi and his colleagues face the challenge of maintaining Replay's heritage while mapping the company's global expansion and the growth of its retail network. The task is well suited to Biancardi, who started working with Buziol in 1978 when Buziol founded the Genius Group with Adriano Goldschmied and Renzo Rosso. In 1981, Buziol founded Fashion Box Group and took control of the Replay brand. Prior to Buziol's death last February, Biancardi was vice chairman of the group.

Since then, Biancardi and Marco Bortoletti, chief executive officer, who has a 10 percent share of Fashion Box, have continued to grow the company. Sales rose more than 30 percent to $386 million, or 310 million euros, in 2005, compared with sales of $286.4 million, or 230 million euros, the previous year. Dollar figures have been converted at average exchange for the year.

"We expect a double-digit growth in 2006," Biancardi said.

He is counting on extending Replay's global retail network and bringing the brand back to the U.S., a market neglected over the past two years, to jump-start sales gains in 2006. The company appointed Thierry Andretta president of Replay U.S. in October. Andretta was ceo of high-end sportswear company Belfe, and before that was vice president at Gucci Group in charge of its emerging brands division. Andretta grew up with Buziol and was one of his closest friends.

"The brand has enormous potential in the U.S., where its awareness is still strong," Andretta said in a phone interview, noting that the Replay store in New York registered a 36 percent sales increase last year compared with 2004, which had a 40 percent gain for the year.

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