By  on December 29, 2009

MILAN — WP Lavori in Corso has extended its focus on heritage brands by taking control of luxury knitwear company Avon Celli.

The Bologna-based WP Lavori in Corso, which also holds worldwide license and distribution rights for Woolrich John Rich & Bros., Woolrich Woolen Mills and B.D. Baggies, will unveil its men’s Avon Celli collection for fall during men’s wear exhibition Pitti Uomo in Florence in January. A women’s line will follow, said Valeria Caffagni, marketing manager of WP.

Avon Celli was founded in 1922 by Pasquale Celli, who broke ground with his innovative woolen swimsuits and converted French hosiery looms into 36-gauge knitwear looms for superfine knits, using materials such as cashmere and silk. Avon Celli’s factories produced knitwear for the likes of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent and its products were worn by celebrities such as Gianni Agnelli, Clark Gable and Audrey Hepburn.

Caffagni said WP is intent on “going back to Avon Celli’s roots and history,” focusing on exclusive Italian craftsmanship and positioning the label in a niche of the market. WP plans to revamp the brand, which, after its heyday from the Fifties to the Seventies “had lost its identity and direction,” said Caffagni, adding the U.S., together with Italy and Germany, are target markets going forward.

The company is planning to develop collections “expressly made for” clients such as Monocle, Colette, Opening Ceremony, Steven Allan and Fred Segal.

In 2008, Avon Celli registered sales of 1.7 million euros, or $2.5 million at average exchange rates, and Caffagni said she expects the brand to reach revenues of 10 million euros, or $14.4 million at current exchange, in three years.

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