By  on September 24, 2008

MILAN — There is more to Michael Kors and Italy than meets the eye — so it only seems appropriate the designer’s first European store should open in Milan.

“I’ve been working with Italy for over 20 years and that’s where I’ve been vacationing every year — I’m a Capri boy,” said Kors, who will hold a cocktail event in Milan at the Bulgari Hotel on Thursday to mark the opening of the store.

Kors’ designer sportswear collection is produced by Gibò, and the store is a collaboration with the Tuscany-based company. The boutique, located next to Fendi and opposite Miu Miu on Via Sant’Andrea, replaces the Viktor & Rolf boutique.

“When we sold our shares in Viktor & Rolf to [Diesel’s parent company] Only the Brave, we felt the need to transform the space to one that was more connected to us and we are placing our bets on Michael Kors,” said Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò, which produces collections for designers including Paul Smith, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Antonio Berardi and Antonio Marras. “Kors is growing year-on-year, with excellent sell-through results.”

While declining to provide sales projections for the Milan store, Pené said he expects it to do well given Kors’ brisk wholesale business with 100 multibrand stores throughout Europe.

The one-level, 1,100-square-foot store here carries the designer’s women’s ready-to-wear, bags, shoes, belts, eyewear and perfumes. In decorating the boutique, Kors said he was looking for a type of wood that would have a special texture, reminiscent of the gray flannel and camel hair that are strong fixtures in his collections, and that macassar fit the bill. “The wood is neutral but with personality,” said Kors.

There are also animal touches such as a zebra stripe pouf and fur throws and blankets, which the designer said stores generally sell within a week, although they aren’t officially for sale. “The idea is of a Park Avenue apartment, a residential mix of yin and yang, clean and warmth,” said Kors.

He tweaks the store concept depending on the city. “There is more color in Los Angeles, more resort in Florida, but Milan is a fast-paced city with four seasons and equivalent to New York, so there are no site-specific changes,” said Kors.

The designer, who plans to open 25 Collection stores across Europe over the next three years, was upbeat about business in Italy. “Italian customers are most discerning about quality, they like clothes that are fresh and fashion, but above all, they want clothes that will last and this is what I offer,” he said.

Kors noted a press office and showroom in Milan are next on his agenda. “There’s only so much we can cover from the U.S.,” he said.

As for the perception of American brands in Italy, Kors said the view of “Americans wearing jeans and T-shirts is a thing of the past. Fast-life clothes, comfortable and sexy, started in New York and Americans are the ones to go to for this.”

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