PRATO, Italy — When the world took note of Michelle Obama’s new look with bangs — posted on her 49th birthday — it also marked a milestone and a connection to fancy yarn spinner in Prato, near Florence, saved from the ashes of bankruptcy three years ago by a successful Italian government intervention.
In the White House photo, Obama wore a red jacquard jersey dress designed by Zac Posen, which spinner Lineapiù Italia says was made from its Giselle and Perseo yarns.
The 38-year-old premium spinner has a roster of present and past clients that reads like a list of runway collection highlights — Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Donna Karan, Azzedine Alaïa and Calvin Klein — yet it very nearly shut its doors in 2009.
A government-appointed administrator, Giovanni Grazzini, worked for a year and a half to cure the ailing business, and by the time he left, he said, it was turning a profit, unusual for any company in Lineapiù’s financial position or sector at the time. Grazzini’s work ended when clothing entrepreneur Alessandro Bastagli bid for a 56 percent stake in the firm.
Bastagli’s main business over the years has been selling clothes and accessories under license, including Everlast sportswear in Italy for the last 30 years and Gold’s Gym.
“This was our first industrial reality,” he said, referring to Lineapiù Italia, “At first, I didn’t think we were up to the task.”
Lineapiù was founded in 1975 with a mission to approach yarn “with a prêt-à-porter mentality” when most Italian spinners made basic products, said Giuliano Coppini, one of Lineapiù’s founders, former head and onetime majority stakeholder.
Coppini’s stake was wiped out when Lineapiù fell under bankruptcy protection, but he has stayed on as Lineapiù Italia’s honorary chairman.
The company grew for 25 consecutive years until 2001, wrote auditor Roberto Marrani in a 2009 assessment commissioned by Grazzini.
At its peak, the firm’s sales had reached 100 million to 130 million euros and had about 1,000 employees in 14 different businesses around the world, said Coppini.
Before Grazzini’s arrival, Lineapiù possessed two main branches: its core businesses — Lineapiù and its less expensive off-shoot, Filclass — and a large cotton spinner called Cotonificio Roberto Ferrari that it had acquired in 1996.
“The cotton spinner in Brescia was the main source of losses,” said Paolo di Paolo, Lineapiù Italia’s administration director. “It had excessive fixed costs when cotton prices became weak.”
The group tried to make the cotton spinner profitable, like creating bespoke yarns in an array of natural and synthetic fibers using cotton-working machinery, Marrani wrote.
Business chugged on until it collapsed in 2008, when the U.S. financial crisis and a weakened dollar gouged exports.
After a loan expired and with no new credit forthcoming, the company sought to recapitalize, but the stakeholders would not underwrite it. Lineapiù sought protection under an Italian bankruptcy law.
The first administrator appointed to Lineapiù thought it a hopeless cause and resigned. But Grazzini felt the core business was still essentially healthy, even after years of burden under debts and losses incurred by other parts of the group.
Grazzini set about severing poor performers from the core. The Cotonificio Roberto Ferrari was sold, a joint venture in China was let go and some commercial offices shuttered.
Di Paolo said Grazzini’s “brilliant intuition was to let the healthy part of the business continue to work.…He didn’t paralyze the company in the way extraordinary administrators usually do. Under Grazzini the company carried on with fairs, collections and serving clients.”
But Coppini said the real credit goes elsewhere still.
“Our clients saved the heart of this company,” he said. “All of our clients who, even in our moments of grave difficulty, still remained loyal to the company.”
Bastagli has invested in the spinner’s relaunch, building new headquarters, buying new machinery, bringing back workers and creating a company museum with newly renovated archives that include 38,000 yarns dating back to 1975 and an impressive array of knits donated by major designers. Bastagli said he has so far invested about 14 million to 15 million euros, or about $18.5 million to $20 million, in Lineapiù Italia, and that his stake there represented about 40 percent of his own current holding
Bastagli reports that despite an uncertain economic climate, Lineapiù Italia continues to turn a 7 to 8 percent profit and to grow. He expects revenues to reach 36 million to 37 million euros, or $47 million to $48.6 million, in 2013, up from 29.7 million euros, or $39 million, in 2010.
“This is a company that is very healthy, very stable,” he added.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye