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MILAN — Francisco Costa may get his much-praised Calvin Klein Collection produced for spring after all.

Sources in Italy say Fingen Apparel is in the final stages of signing a deal to produce and distribute the collection. An announcement could come as soon as today.

The Florence-based Fingen already holds the licenses for Calvin Klein Jeans in Europe and Asia, and cK Calvin Klein apparel and accessories in Europe and the Middle East. In 2004, Fingen inked a licensing deal with Jean Paul Gaultier for a denim and sportswear collection. Until last year, the group produced and distributed the Guess Jeans line in Europe. Guess Inc. bought back its license at that time.

Privately owned by brothers Corrado and Marcello Fratini, Fingen Group has deep pockets and also operates a real estate division. It would take over the Calvin Klein Collection license from Vestimenta SpA, which sold the license of its Vestimenta and Hilton brands to Italian manufacturer Nogara this summer.

As part of a long-term licensing deal, Vestimenta started producing the Calvin Klein Collection women’s line for fall 2003 and took over global distribution last spring. But the company is said to be looking to exit the apparel business altogether and cut its ties to the Klein collection in the middle of the spring season’s development, which leaves Calvin Klein Inc. with the task of finding a new manufacturer. CKI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.

Costa’s effort for spring, presented in New York earlier this month, was widely hailed as the designer’s best since taking over the women’s design helm from Calvin Klein with the spring 2004 collection. Considered one of the highlights of the American spring season, the collection was full of complicated details such as interpretations of circles and cable knits.

But the premature ending of the Vestimenta license raised the question of whether the collection would be produced and, if so, whether it could even be possible for a new licensee to make such an intricate collection at such short notice.

At the fashion show, Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Inc., said: “It will either be Vestimenta or, if we agree to transfer the license to another entity, it will be with them….We are talking to several companies.”

This story first appeared in the September 30, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Retailers unanimously lauded the collection. Jennifer Wheeler, director of designer apparel at Nordstrom, called it “a watershed collection” for Costa. Robert Burke, senior vice president of fashion at Bergdorf Goodman, said this was “an incredibly important show for New York and really pivotal for Francisco Costa. It was beautifully designed and had a lightness. It was so sophisticated, it rivals a European collection.”

But for all the praise, stores are said to have been very cautious with their orders because of the collection’s uncertain future. Retailers should be pleased with the news that it has found a new home in Fingen.

“The Fratini brothers had been eyeing such a deal for a long time,” said a source here. “They have a reputation for high-quality products and timely deliveries.”

The upper-tier Calvin Klein Collection business has struggled to maintain the momentum it had in its heyday in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Several larger department and specialty stores that had a significant Calvin Klein Collection business have drastically reduced their departments. In 2004, Collection raked in $200 million in worldwide retail sales in all categories. According to sources, its U.S. women’s wholesale business is estimated to be less than $5 million.

Collection still plays a crucial role in setting the tone and image of the multicategory Klein brand, which rakes in $3.3 billion at retail. While its contribution to the bottom line is small, Collection’s point of view and advertising campaigns still steer the direction of the Calvin Klein better and cK Calvin Klein bridge sportswear businesses.

Costa was in Milan this week showing the clothes to European buyers and preparing for the official opening today of a Calvin Klein Collection store. The shop had a soft opening this summer.

The Milan unit is the second Klein store to open in Italy within the past year. A Rome boutique opened in fall 2004.

The three-story boutique, which covers more than 5,000 square feet, is located in Corso Matteotti, a few steps away from the city’s Duomo, and Via Montenapoleone, in the golden fashion shopping triangle. The store is owned and operated by L’Innominato SpA, but is modeled after the Calvin Klein Collection stores designed by architect John Pawson. New York-based architect Enzo Manola designed the interior.

The boutique carries the Calvin Klein Collection lines for men and women, Calvin Klein Jeans and other Klein-branded categories such as innerwear, fragrances, watches and eyewear.

“This is a very big step for Calvin Klein,” Murry said in a statement. “This new location serves to increase Calvin Klein Collection’s presence in one of the top fashion luxury markets in the world and complements our Milan-based European headquarters.” The executive said Europe represents strong business for the company and the flagship will help further develop that market.

There are a total of 16 Calvin Klein Collection stores around the world, including the Milan boutique.

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