Byline: Barbara Barker

BARCELONA, Spain — Andres Sarda just might be the oldest “new face” in the U.S. swimwear market.
As founder, president and general manager of the 37-year-old Eurocorset, a family-owned swimwear and lingerie company based here, Sarda says he has been around so long that he can lay claim to being the first European innerwear manufacturer to put Lycra in a garment. That was the early Sixties, but his family involvement in the garment business goes back quite a bit further. An earlier generation of Sarda brothers was producing lace mantillas about a century ago.
Today, with its three prestige labels — the eponymous Andres Sarda, Risk and University — Eurocorset produces more than 100,000 units a year for its swimwear division and roughly three times that figure in lingerie. The innerwear is a pricy line: a pair of embroidered tulle panties, for instance, retails here for $60.
Sarda’s swimwear traditionally features a sexy, streamlined silhouette with a luxurious feel, based on high tech fiber blends and new dye and finishing techniques such as gradual color shadings or scattered shine. Sarda offers mix and match options, a choice of construction — some or none — and a line of coverups that some retailers say are the best in the business. “especially the silk pareos; they look like spider webs,” said Pilar Barreiro, owner of the five-store Spanish lingerie chain, Oh Que Luna.
Sarda’s design philosophy is based on seduction and performance, he says.
“Design is a kind of investigation. You have to know your subject inside out. In the end, it’s a question of harmony, a coming together of cut, color and feel,” he said.
Roughly 47 percent of production is exported, to 35 countries, principally France (where eclectic retailer Sabbia Rossa, Paris, is a customer), Germany, Italy, the Benelux nations, Switzerland and Austria. In addition, Sarda maintains sales networks in those countries. Other international accounts are Fenwick in London and high-end points of sale in Scandinavia, Japan and other parts of Asia.
Sarda began selling to accounts in the U.S. 18 months ago. “Prior to that, it was catch-as-catch-can, an agent here, a representative there. Not satisfactory, and certainly not consistent,” said commercial director Vincens Gual. Barneys, New York and Beverly Hills, was the first major retailer to sign on, followed this year by Bergdorf Goodman and most recently, downtown New York shops La Petite Coquette and Le Corset.
“We have a few small specialty stores as well in Chicago and Seattle,” Gual said, “but the U.S. is so new to us, it’s fair to say we’re a little nervous about it.” He declined to predict sales growth but said the market offers “muchisimas” opportunities.
Retail prices in the U.S. range from $75 for University, the younger line; to $200 for the Andres Sarda brand.
Domestically, Sarda sells to 600 sales points, including El Corte Ingles, Spain’s only department store chain and its largest retailer.
Wholesale volume last year (40 percent swimwear, 60 percent lingerie). which represents a 10 percent hike over 1998, according to Gual. Sales for 2000 are expected to climb 7 percent.
Both swimwear and lingerie categories generated close to $7.4 million in wholesale volume last year (40 percent swimwear, 60 percent lingerie). Which represents a 10 percent hike over 1998, according to Gual. Sales for 2000 are expected to climb 7 percent.
Industry sources here agree that Sarda is one of Spain’s heftiest players. They also say he doesn’t follow trends.
According to an upscale boutique owner whose three Barcelona shops carry the range, “Sarda is definitely ahead of his time. He can even be too advanced,” she commented, suggesting that sales suffer for what she called his “creative stubbornness, but his quality is impeccable.” She reported good sell-throughs for both one-piece tanks and bikinis.
He won’t stage a runway show at Barcelona’s upcoming Intibano trade event (July 21-23), opting instead for a 2001 press unveiling at Pasarela Cibeles, the Madrid catwalk presentations, which coincide with Imagenmoda fashion week in September. His first Madrid outing is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m.

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