MILAN — The economy isn’t bringing everything to a standstill.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Renato Preti, former chief executive officer of private equity fund Opera, founded together with Bulgari in 2000, is launching a design brand called Skitsch with a group of Italian entrepreneurs. “Some may question the timing, but there are many opportunities in this sector,” said Preti during a press conference at the Bulgari Hotel here Tuesday.

He said customers are looking for less ostentatious products, opting for feel-good pieces rather than flashy cars or jewels. “The demand for contemporary aesthetics is growing, the pleasure to surround oneself with contemporary objects strengthened by the crisis and there is only a limited offer,” said Preti.

Furniture, accessories such as candles, home fragrances and other objects for the home and office will be created by an initial group of 27 international designers, ranging from Maarten Baas to Xavier Lust, Marc Sadler to Joost van Bleiswijk, under the artistic supervision of Cristina Morozzi.

“Design objects are usually either too strange or too functional. We are looking for balance and a comprehensive offer,” said Preti, whose career includes stints at Opera-controlled home furnishings company B&B Italia and outdoor furniture firm Unopiù.

The company behind Skitsch is called Di Disegno SpA. With an investment of up to 12 million euros, or $15.5 million at current exchange, Skitsch expects sales of 5 million euros, or $6.4 million, in the first year, and revenues of 50 million, or $64.5 million, in five years.

Others involved in the project include Alberto Bombassei, vice president of Italy’s Industrialists Association, Confindustria, and president and ceo of Brembo SpA, a leading group in the production, design and marketing of brake systems. The company has also taken control of home furnishings brand Dovetusai, whose products will be part of Skitsch’s catalogue.

Skitsch will debut on April 21 during Milan’s international furniture and design exhibition, the Salone del Mobile, with the opening of its first store. The 6,480-square-foot flagship will boast 13 windows in the centrally located Via Monte di Pietà, 11, a few steps away from the Bulgari Hotel and Via Montenapoleone. The store, in wood, glass, concrete and brass, with touches of blue, was designed by Luca Bombassei, partner and founder of Blast Architects in Milan, Venice and Abu Dhabi.

The products will mostly be made in Italy, except for specific categories such as rugs from India, crystal from Bohemia, and porcelain from Poland. Distribution will include Skitsch’s own stores, catalogues and e-commerce. “In this industry, distribution is very fragmented, the experience of shopping is not fun or stimulating, often with delayed deliveries and little service,” said Preti.

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