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WWDStyle issue 01/28/2011

MILAN — Roberto Cavalli Group and Staff International have signed a 10-year licensing agreement for the global production and distribution of the Just Cavalli line, starting with the spring 2012 season. The deal, which ends two years of speculation, could be extended for another five years.

This story first appeared in the January 28, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The 30-year-old Veneto, Italy-based Staff International, which is controlled by Diesel’s parent company, Only the Brave Srl, produces and distributes collections for Maison Martin Margiela, Dsquared2, Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs.

During a press conference in Milan Thursday, Renzo Rosso, founder of Only the Brave, and designer Roberto Cavalli, both tanned and dressed in black, were in upbeat moods. “We’re longtime friends. We’re very much alike, both creative minds, and we can do great things together,” said Cavalli. “This is the right conclusion after years of confusion, and we can bring back the brand to its original splendor.”

Just Cavalli was previously licensed to Ittierre SpA, which was part of the IT Holding SpA group that included the Gianfranco Ferré and Malo labels. The sale of Ittierre to Albisetti SpA was finalized earlier this month. The latter took control of the Italian manufacturing firm after almost two years of government-backed bankruptcy protection. The Just Cavalli innerwear, beachwear and silk collections previously were licensed to Albisetti and will continue to be produced and distributed by that company. In 2009, Cavalli had voiced his displeasure at Ittierre’s delayed deliveries, substandard production and unpaid royalties, but eventually extended the contract, due to expire last year, until 2014. (The license was estimated to account for more than a third of IT Holding’s revenues).

Even then, Staff International was understood to be waiting in the wings. Gianluca Brozzetti, ceo of the Cavalli group, declined to elaborate on the contractual way-out clauses. Ittierre produces the C’N’C Costume National, Galliano and Ermanno Ermanno Scervino collections.

Rosso said Staff International can produce a “fresher, more innovative and more modern product, with its unique know-how and treatments.” Staff will create a new contemporary division to manage Just Cavalli, which will add entry price pieces, feature more denim items and more of the brand’s iconic prints, said Rosso.

In five years, the companies expect to reach wholesale sales of 250 million euros, or $342.1 million at current exchange, up from the current 80 million euros, or $109.4 million.

“This is a much more avant-garde group. I can experiment more, it will be a completely new product — another world compared to the past,” said Cavalli.

A flagship is expected to open in Milan early next year. The goal is to reach 80 stores in five years, up from the current 38, in addition to developing shop-in-shops, corners and online sales. Points of sale will grow to 1,700 or 1,800 from the current 1,500, with “some editing to do in the meantime,” said Rosso. In the next few weeks, a dedicated Just Cavalli site will make its debut on Italian e-tailer Yoox SpA, which already runs a Roberto Cavalli e-site.

Staff International is expected to close 2010 with sales of 180 million euros, or $237.6 million, up from 144 million euros, or $200 million, in 2009. Only the Brave is expected to report consolidated turnover of 1.3 billion euros, or $1.7 billion, in 2010, up 5 percent from 2009. Dollar figures were converted from the euro at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

Rosso said Staff International is “preparing a project to make Martin Margiela’s MM6 line more important,” and implied another designer could join the firm’s stable next year.