CERRUTI STRENGTHENS HIS WOMEN’S TIES

Byline: J. O.

NEW YORK — He’s done it with men’s wear, and with fragrance. Now, Nino Cerruti wants to do it with women’s apparel.
The Paris-based designer is putting some momentum into his women’s business in the U.S., fueled by a new rapport between his Cerruti 1881 Couture label and his designer-price women’s label called Cerruti 1881.
Cerruti brought in Signum International Inc., agents, importers and distributors specializing in European collections here, to handle the women’s business. Narciso Rodriguez, design director of Tse Cashmere, is consulting on the design direction of the Couture label.
Cerruti, whose business does about $350 million annually from its wholesale business, licensing, franchises and retail stores, is better known here for his men’s wear and fragrances. During a recent visit, he admitted that his previous approach to the American market has been less than focused.
“We have had the women’s line here, but we were not organized,” said Cerruti.
Now, however, with Michael Cressey, president of Signum, Cerruti wants to make more of an impact. Cerruti 1881 will be sold through Signum’s showroom here at 501 Seventh Ave., starting in February. Jackets wholesale from $285 to $395; pants and skirts are $150 to $200; blouses are $90 to $165, and dresses are $275 to $395.
U.S. business for the Cerruti 1881 Couture line will also be handled through Signum, but because there will only be one set of samples, buying for that line will be done through the Paris headquarters. Prices on the Couture line will be about 30 percent higher than on the Cerruti 1881 line.
“The couture line will provide the direction for the diffusion line,” noted Cerruti.
However, said Cressey, the distribution on both will be very limited.
“The line has to remain exclusive,” said Cressey, but he noted that deliveries will be constant. Cerruti 1881 is manufactured through a license with Kemper Gmbh, a German manufacturer that is a division of Escada AG.
“What’s made the Cerruti 1881 line a success in Europe is that we have eight deliveries a season, starting very early, with almost no dead period. The retailers can dedicate an area to it, and know it will be filled with new groups that will flow together.”
The diffusion line is not a bridge line, Cerruti emphasizes — it is simply a more commercial version of his couture collection.
“[The designer line] is still a very different kind of distribution from the diffusion line, which has been available to both the department stores and the specialty stores,” he said. “I brought in Narciso because he will be the person who works with me on the women’s designer line. I need a designer line that can be commercialized so that it is not just for the runway.”
The two also said they won’t fall prey to some of the most typical failings of European sportswear lines: faulty deliveries and bad fit.
“We want to deliver on time, and we would like to avoid the kind of clothes whose best moments are on the runway,” said Cerruti. “We plan to handle this line the way we would handle any large commercial venture: properly, with service and deliveries.
“The more you want to be in a competitive market, the more you have to adapt to things like taste and measurements. We’ve been checking measurements on three major sportswear lines, and they are all different. I find the main difference in the fit is in the length of the torso, not in the size of the hips or shoulders.”
“For the U.S., we have to be very cautious — for example, with fabrics,” said Cressey. “Half of this country is very warm much of the time.”
And the diffusion line, which currently has 500 styles, will be merchandised specifically for the U.S. retailer once it’s in the showroom, said Cressey.
“We plan to have one to three retailers in each city,” said Cressey, adding that he feels the line will do $5 million to $10 million in wholesale volume in the first year with “no problem.”
“We also plan to service the line, promote it and do trunk shows and sales clinics,” he said. “All of that is very important.”
“We have to start working with retailers in the same way the cosmetic people do, where they know about their line and they sell it,” added Cerruti. “People have to be properly instructed.”

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