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Ferragamo Sees Big Men’s Growth

Ferragamo has big plans for men's. The goal is to grow the ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories by 15 percent in the next two years

BOSTON — Ferragamo men’s wear designer Massimiliano Giornetti may be an art connoisseur and designer for one of Italy’s storied design houses, but he’s also surprisingly practical. 

“The role of designer is not the same as it was 20 years ago,” said Giornetti during a Dec. 3 interview here. “I check the sell-throughs every week. … I want to know what’s selling well, where and why. ”

Giornetti visited Boston last week in conjunction with the anniversary gala of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, which the Italian house sponsored. Ferragamo is making a push here, opening a store in Copley Place downtown earlier this year followed by a second location next year in Natick Collection, about 20 miles west of the city. 

While its competitors lavish attention on women’s wear, Ferragamo has big plans for men’s. The goal is to grow the ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories by 15 percent in the next two years, to 50 percent of the global business, said Giornetti. Men’s U.S. sales alone are on track to grow 20 percent this year, said Vincent Ottomanelli, president of Ferragamo U.S. 

Both designer and executive see men as underserved and believe there’s a great opportunity to evolve merchandise younger while still maintaining a classical positioning. 

The first men’s-only store bows at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles next year. The interior will feature darker, richer finishes and more leather, Ottomanelli said. 

Under Giornetti the collection is becoming younger and broader. There’s more weekend wear, more casual shoes (such as the patent-toe Chuck Taylor-esque lace-ups Giornetti sports) and punchy accessories such as an acid-yellow crocodile laptop case. 

Giornetti said he sees men becoming more active shoppers, choosing their own clothes instead of leaving it to their wife or girlfriend. Booming economies in China and India have created new customer bases there. 

Giornetti’s personal penchant for slim fits, layering and what he terms “cozy” fabrics influences this season’s printed-velvet blazers and fine-gauge cardigans. Those signatures will be reappear and evolve in the fall/winter 2008 collection, debuting in January in Milan. Fall/winter 2008, he said, was influenced by Brice Marden abstracts and the German film The Lives of Others, set in East Berlin in 1984. Warm grays and navy, with dusty pink as an accent color, will figure prominently. Outerwear will become more voluminous against the slim, straight pants and narrow-lapeled jackets of the ready-to-wear. 

Giornetti sees a place in Ferragamo’s lineup for new basics, such as dandified tuxedo shirts, layered with skinny tie and vest à la Justin Timberlake, or for a sleek cardigan replacing a jacket.

The core business of weekend sport shirts is doing very well, he said, bolstered by a focus on exclusive colors and patterns he and his staff create. 

“I love what we are doing,” he said. “It feels like a very fluid, natural evolution of the brand.”