FUSCO’S NEW PLAN
Byline: Courtney Colavita
MILAN — Four months after the termination of his manufacturing and distribution license with GFT Net, designer Antonio Fusco has unveiled a three-year plan aimed at bringing his business back to its roots. During an animated news conference here, Fusco openly criticized the management at GFT Net, accusing them of damaging his 20-year-old business.
“We’re bringing production and distribution in-house, and refocusing on giving clients the quality they have come to expect from the women’s collection,” Fusco told a small group of reporters on Thursday in his showroom here. “I really feel like I’m relaunching my collection.”
Fusco said he will invest some $12.5 million over the next three years in an effort to reinforce his brand in Italy and Germany, and increase his position in other strategic markets such as the U.S., Russia and Asia.
Italy and Germany are Fusco’s largest markets, accounting for 70 percent of all sales, while the U.S., Europe and Asia generate the remaining turnover.
Fusco has tapped Trussardi executive Pier Luigi Guoglielmetti, scheduled to leave Trussardi in March, to oversee worldwide commercial activities for Fusco.
“We’re going to be extremely selective about our clients and our partners,” Guoglielmetti said.
Since December, Fusco has reopened both his manufacturing plant outside of Milan, and his office in Munich, Germany. He also signed a deal with Dusseldorf-based Bagalioni to distribute in Germany.
Fusco said he plans to reopen his New York office by September. “The U.S was once our third most important market, but over the last three years, we lost valuable ground — I’m determined to get it back,” Fusco said, adding he expects the U.S. to generate 25 percent of turnover by 2004.
Fusco said since 1998 sales have plunged 50 percent, to $27.5 million, a situation he blames on GFT Net. “My collection, my company was born from my sweat and work,” a visibly emotional Fusco said. “It took me 18 years to create my brand. GFT Net practically destroyed it in three.”
GFT Net, which is controlled by Italy’s Holding di Partceipazioni Industriali, released a statement in response to Fusco’s comments.
“We believe that the collaboration between a designer and a manufacturer is based on both design and execution,” it read. “Fusco’s sales reflect his ability to renew himself season after season as a designer. GFT invested its strength, professional resources and financial support to follow the input of [Fusco’s] fashion house. We believe it’s evident that in the end the consumers had the final say.”
Last November, Fusco and GFT Net ended their three-year licensing agreement. At that time, the two parties said the parting was amicable.
It’s been a tough month for GFT. Earlier this month, HdP-controlled Fila said it expected to report about a $65 million loss when it releases fourth-quarter and year-end results Feb. 26.
Since 1999, a series of licenses were terminated at GFT Net, including collections for Emanuel Ungaro, Cerruti Bros. and Giorgio Armani. The company has said it is now focusing on more complete partnerships rather than simple licensing agreements.
GFT Net owns the Valentino and Joseph Abboud labels, and in addition to its own in-house lines, the company produces the Calvin Klein men’s wear collection under license.
As for Fusco, the quintessential Neapolitan is concentrating on his fall-winter 2001 women’s collection. It’s the first line made in-house since 1998, and will bow the last day of the Milan shows.
“I feel like I’m starting all over again,” said Fusco. “This collection is a return to the beautiful fabrics and classic styling that I am known for.”