By  on July 8, 2005

PARIS — Christian Lacroix is coming to America.Vowing to rapidly develop the acclaimed couturier's business, the new owners already have signed a lease for a boutique at The Forum Shops in Las Vegas and are zeroing in on space for a New York flagship and a new showroom.In an interview with WWD Thursday, Simon Falic, the new owner and director of Lacroix and chairman of Florida-based travel retail firm Falic Group, also revealed plans to roll out Lacroix corners to about 20 of its Duty Free Americas locations. In addition, an expanded range of handbags and small leather goods will be unveiled to the trade in the coming weeks, the first volley in a big accessories push.Falic called Lacroix's potential "tremendous" and said his family bought Lacroix from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton at an opportune moment, for the house was showing strong momentum."We think it's very well positioned. So much money has been invested in this brand, and Mr. Lacroix is such a highly regarded talent in the fashion industry," he said. "I honestly believe we can double the sales volume in five years, maybe sooner."The forthcoming U.S. openings underline that America is a priority, with the Las Vegas unit spanning 1,500 square feet and boasting 30 feet of frontage, slated to open as early as yearend. Falic recently signed on Miami firm Pavlik to work on a new design concept."We want to bring the strength we have to the business, which is retail development," he said. Still, the wholesale channel also is considered a key priority, and Jerome Falic, also a director at Lacroix, has plans to meet with key partners such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.America represents about 10 percent of the Lacroix business, and Falic said that ratio should quickly grow to 30 to 35 percent. South America represents the next important frontier for the brand.The Falics declined to give figures, but said Europe represents the biggest market for Lacroix, followed by Japan. Ready-to-wear will remain the cornerstone of the business — the signature line and the jeans collection — but the secondary line, Bazaar, is under review and may be phased out, Falic said.Otherwise, it's largely business as usual at the Paris-based fashion house. As reported, the designer, 54, recently signed a five-year contract that assured the future of his couture collection.Indeed, Falic said he increased the budget for Thursday's couture show, recognizing that high fashion reinforces the brand's image and generates major international press."Right now, the [couture] category is so limited," Falic said. "That means Lacroix gets a lot of exposure and it's positioning with the best brands in France ... Overall, the haute couture business is performing better than what we had budgeted and projected."Falic declined to quantify Falic Group's investments in Lacroix, but said the lion's share would go into Lacroix's retail push, and also product development in accessories and rtw. Still, Falic said the brand would rapidly reach profitability, possibly even this year. LVMH, which endured steep losses since founding a couture house for Lacroix in 1987, off-loaded the brand for a symbolic amount in January as the luxury group streamlines its portfolio.Falic confirmed Lacroix would maintain Inter Parfums as its perfume licensee, which is launching the women's scent, Tumulte, in stores in September. Meanwhile, the family, which also bought Urban Decay and Hard Candy from LVMH in 2002, ruled out further acquisitions."We're going to focus on this," he said of Lacroix. "It's a big undertaking and we're going to focus on doing it right."

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