NOTEBOOK FROM MILAN

Byline: Courtney Colavita

Success is in the details. That could be the motto for a crop of Italian firms that are incorporating imaginative detailing into classic styles. From bedazzling socks to adorned handbags, these companies are breaking conventions and redefining accessories.
Walking on Glass
Don’t get your socks in a bunch — especially when sporting the superluxe styles created by Italian legwear manufacturer Gallo. At $5,000 a pair, each is adorned with semiprecious stones, 56 Swarovski crystals and several diamonds, all attached to an ultralight cotton jersey. The limited-edition socks are available this spring by request only, though they have already been spotted on Elton John and the Sheik of Bahrain.
“We wanted to create a true accessory that would amaze and convey an eclectic and exuberant style,” said Giuseppe Colombo, Gallo’s chief executive officer, who said he turned to the creative design team at Swarovski to come up with the right cut and weight for the gem-laden socks.
“It’s all about innovation and keeping the designers inspired,” said Nadia Swarovski, Swarovski’s vice president. “We’re really trying to emphasize functionality with our crystals. The socks we did with Gallo are beautiful and wearable. They’re not inconvenient at all.”
The jeweled models are the latest in Gallo’s limited-edition series. Last season, the family-run company showed a pair of socks made with platinum. For fall, their high-end knee-highs featured a hand-painted replica of an ancient Japanese painting of two lovers embracing.

Carrying Cavalli
Roberto Cavalli will launch a high-end line of leather goods for spring 2002. There’s no word yet on who will produce the line, but Cavalli said the distribution will be done in-house.
Renato Baldini, director of licenses for Roberto Cavalli, said “the line must have the same sexy spirit as Cavalli’s ready-to-wear.”
The company recently introduced watches and sunglasses. Last October, Cavalli showed a capsule collection of shoes produced by manufacturer Vicini that were an immediate must-have.
“We had such a phenomenal response to the shoes that our customers began asking when we were going to do handbags,” said Baldini.
The requests, however, are just part of the reason Cavalli has decided to venture into a full accessories collection.
“In general, there’s this trend for designers to have their own [accessories] line, and we feel the moment is right for us to enter the market,” Baldini said.
The signature line will be Cavalli’s second foray into leather goods. His diffusion line, Freedom, launched a handbag collection this season. Produced by Florence-based leather goods manufacturer Works, the bags are done in leather and canvas and target a younger customer. The company reported sales of $1.5 million for Freedom accessories in its rookie season and projects twice that for the second season.

Glitterati
There are two things Italians never leave home without: A slick telefonino and an equally cool pair of occhiali.
It’s no wonder Italy is home to such mega-eyewear manufactures as Luxottica, Di Rigo, Safilo and Marcolin. While Marcolin may be the smallest of the four firms, it’s proving the sun also shines on its business. The family-run, public company produces eyewear for Dolce & Gabbana, D&G, Chloe Lunettes, Roberto Cavalli, Mossimo Vision and Replay.
From black wraparounds studded with Swarovski crystals for Dolce & Gabbana to delicate, colorful classic styles for Chloe Lunettes, Marcolin has produced a fresh, diversified and stylish line of shades this spring.
Marcolin substituted conventional materials with leather for the Roberto Cavalli line. Its signature pair features ultraflexible leather frames and a colorful leather bandanna that ties in the back and can be interchanged with other models. The frames retail for $300, while the extra bandannas, available in black, white or with a rainbow print, cost $100.
Founded in 1961 by Giovanni Marcolin, the company is now run by his twin sons, Cirillo and Maurizio. The manufacturer makes more than three million frames a year, which are sold in more than 50,000 outlets in some 70 countries.
Last year, Marcolin acquired French eyewear manufacturer Cebe, which specializes in technical and sport glasses. In 1999, it reported sales of close to $100 million. All figures are converted from lira at the current exchange rates.

Money in the Bag
The leather goods firm, Sissi Rossi, is focused on retail expansion: the group recently invested $1.5 million in a new state-of-the-art studio outside Bologna and plans to open its first freestanding store this year.
“We’re changing our strategy by focusing more on the promotion and development of our own label,” said Gian Enzo Rossi, general manager and brother of the company’s founder and designer, Sissi.
The company, which supplies buttons, embroideries, sequins and trimmings to fashion houses such as Moschino, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferre and Jean Paul Gaultier, launched its own line of upscale handbags two years ago.
This spring, Rossi turned to Fifties’ glamour girls for inspiration. The playful, yet sophisticated handbags are made with napa, microfibers and canvas. A classic red-and-white pattern is updated with Lurex, while a slate gray rectangular bag is strung with pearls.
The collection’s banner piece is Il Nido, which means “the nest.” Woven together like a bird’s nest, the square-shaped handbag is a complicated work of leather, straw and fabric intertwined with feathers and paper butterflies.
“The collection evokes those iconic years when starlets vacationed in Capri and Portofino,” said Rossi. “Our handbags are about fantasy and functionality.”
For 2000, the company reported total sales of $2.5 million, with handbags accounting for almost 30 percent of volume. Rossi said he expects sales of handbags to more than double this year.
“We’re seeing major growth in the U.S. and in Japan,” he added. “They’re definitely our most important markets and we’re working on new distribution agreements.”
In the U.S., the line currently is sold at select upscale department and specialty stores.

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