MILAN — Keeping it all in the family, the Jil Sander Group has inked a licensing agreement with footwear specialist Iris, which, just like the fashion company, is controlled by Gibò. The latter is the European branch of the Japanese retailing group Onward Kashiyama and acquired Iris in 2005.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“This new license is the next strategic step, since we are part of the Onward-Gibò Group. After the successful establishment of our own accessory division, our focus is on increasing efficiency by using the excellence and know-how of Iris,” said Gian Giacomo Ferraris, chief executive officer at Jil Sander. “This synergetic alliance will strengthen our presence in existing markets and will give us new access to develop emerging ones.”

The long-term deal for both men’s and women’s shoes is set to start with the spring 2010 collection. Prior to the new license, Sander’s footwear was produced by independent manufacturers, a setup that still applies to the brand’s handbags.

The Milan-based Iris currently manufactures and distributes the main footwear lines for Chloé, Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Michael Kors and Rochas, among others.

Jil Sander’s push in accessories began over two years ago when Raf Simons and Ferraris established a new accessories division. From 2005 to 2008, the business rose from 15 percent to 24 percent of total sales.

In September 2006, Simons tapped Giuseppe di Nuccio, formerly at Burberry, to manage the fledgling division. With di Nuccio’s departure a year ago, Simons, who reintroduced handmade styles for men and women with thick soles and hand-stitched vamps, became the sole creative mind. Retail prices range from $387 for ballerinas to $3,900 for croc boots. Jil Sander has an accessories-only store in Moscow and a corner in Tokyo’s Isetan. The accessories also are available in 340 wholesale doors worldwide.

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