A poncho from Cris worn with a Da’mage skirt.

NEW YORK — Cristiani Proietti has a closet just for cashmere in her Beverly Hills apartment and now she’s working to give other women that same need.<BR><BR>This fall, Proietti launches a cashmere knitwear collection under her Cris label....

NEW YORK — Cristiani Proietti has a closet just for cashmere in her Beverly Hills apartment and now she’s working to give other women that same need.

This fall, Proietti launches a cashmere knitwear collection under her Cris label. After 16 years of designing for other companies, she is venturing out on her own.

As for her cashmere closet, Proietti said, “Personally, I think I have a disease with cashmere. I have nearly 200 pieces in my closet, which is crazy. I know it’s not normal.”

Born in Rome, Proietti learned to crochet and knit as a child and continued to do so during her teenage years. When she was 16, her father encouraged her to rent a knitting machine to try to set up her own company. During a phone interview Tuesday, Proietti recalled getting tangled in the yarn and said, “I think my father was trying to discourage me and to teach me I didn’t have to knit with a handloom to run my own company.”

Without the proper financing, she decided to put that plan on hold. Her father, Giovanni Proietti, was familiar with the apparel business. He owned Blue Point, an Italian company that made private label men’s shirts. He sold it in the early Eighties.

At the age of 20, she went to the U.S. to practice her English and wound up enrolling at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. After graduation, she took various design jobs, working primarily as a consultant. Now at age 38, she has her own cashmere collection.

Cris is housed at Brothers & Sisters showrooms in L.A. and New York. The 18-piece fall contemporary collection includes cashmere shawls, fur-trimmed sweaters, off-the-shoulder sweaters, camisoles, turtlenecks and ponchos. Packed with color, each design in the collection is offered in 10 styles. Hot pink, pale pink, baby blue, moss green and purple are among the options, as well as black and white. Brooches are used throughout the line as accents, even for the cashmere sweater for dogs.

Wholesale prices range from $84 for a crewneck to $248 for a coat, with the average wholesale price being $98. Cris should ring up between $3.5 million and $4 million in wholesale volume this year, with 230 specialty stores carrying the line this fall, Proietti said. — Rosemary Feitelberg

This story first appeared in the July 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.