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Tarlazzi Returns for Act Two in U.S.

PARIS — Angelo Tarlazzi, a designer who gained fame in the Eighties for his dramatic eveningwear and flyaway dresses, is out to conquer America — again.<BR><BR>Although absent from the market for about a decade, Tarlazzi is making new...

PARIS — Angelo Tarlazzi, a designer who gained fame in the Eighties for his dramatic eveningwear and flyaway dresses, is out to conquer America — again.

Although absent from the market for about a decade, Tarlazzi is making new inroads at top specialty stores with his clever knits and tailored jerseys, priced slightly under comparable European collections.

“When I started, the first buyers who came were the Americans,” Tarlazzi recalled during an interview at his showroom here. “These are the people who are passionate about the fashion business.”

He said they are also realistic about clothes that are easy to sell for women ages 30 and up — his target.

Among stores smitten by Tarlazzi are Jimmy’s in Brooklyn, Takashimaya in Manhattan and Jamie in Nashville, which are among the two-dozen retailers that picked up the line this season.

“Our customers tend to respond well when we bring back a collection they had a fond memory of,” said Penne Weidig, collections buyer at Tootsie’s in Houston. “The knitwear pieces sold right away.”

Italian-born Tarlazzi, who launched his label here in 1978, has been operating under the radar as the company changed hands and regrouped. Its owner is Deniaud, a French construction group.

Tarlazzi credits its factory in the Brittany region of France, which employs 49 people, for being able to control quality and ensure timely deliveries that are so essential to building a fashion business in this competitive climate. The factory also produces for brands such as Rochas, Regina Rubens and Lilith.

Two years ago, Tarlazzi stopped showing his collection on the runway during Paris Fashion Week, which reduced his industry profile. However, he said eliminating the exorbitant expense helps him keep the pricing sharp vis-à-vis his competitors.

“It’s better to sell well and concentrate on sales,” he said. “Our prices are our advertising.”

Tarlazzi distributes his collection to about 150 specialty stores in Europe and Japan. The U.S. represents only about 10 percent of sales, but the goal is to reach 30 percent in the coming years.

In support of the U.S. push, Tarlazzi has organized a program of trunk shows next month, taking in such stores as Hugo Nicholson in Toronto and Ultimo in Chicago.

Among the best-booking styles for fall are ribbon-trimmed, shawl-collared pantsuits in gray jersey, a black jersey and taffeta evening coat and a turtleneck sweater-cum-poncho that recalls Tarlazzi’s famous batwing styles from the Eighties. Wholesale prices range from $185 to $250 for knitwear, $150 to $295 for skirts and $515 to $555 for pantsuits.

Market sources estimate the label generates wholesale volume approaching 6 million euros, or about $7.7 million at current exchange.

Tarlazzi started his fashion career with the Roman house of Carosa. He has also worked as a designer at Jean Patou, Laura Biagiotti and Basile. After launching his signature label, he also was the haute couture designer at Guy Laroche and a rtw designer at Carven.