NEW YORK — Carola Barbera really wasn’t interested in working in the family business when her father, Luciano Barbera, asked her what she wanted to do with her life.
“I said, I don’t know, I want to be a mom and have eight or 10 children,” Barbera recalled. Of course, that was 15 years ago. Now Barbera is the founder and designer of the women’s line produced by her family’s business, and the mother of four young children. “I think that’s enough,” she added.
Barbera was in town for a few days to launch the women’s first in-store boutique, at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship here. The line is sold at several specialty stores, including Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman and some Neiman Marcus stores. But this boutique, modeled after the company’s Milan showroom, is a first — and will serve as a model for others.
Joseph Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks, said the women’s collection has shown a substantial evolution since it was introduced in nine Saks doors around the country. The second-floor location at its New York flagship was opened in November to complement the label’s long-standing strength for the store’s men’s business.
“There is an understanding in this collection that there is a substantial difference between men’s and women’s clothing,” Boitano said. “You can see that in the softness, the fabric, the femininity of the palette, in the shoulder treatments and also in the softer sportswear pieces.”
Among the strongest styles for the store have been purple or cornflower windowpane cashmere blazers paired with gray pants, a suede shirt jacket and knit pocket T-shirts with charming little sleeves.
“This line has something that is not always available in other collections,” said Boitano. “It’s sophisticated sportswear with incredible details, like pick-stitching on a blouse or amazing buttons on a linen shirt. But above all is the quality of the line. It’s a natural for New York as an extension of our designer sportswear business.”

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