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MILAN — Gibò SpA is bringing its collection home.

As reported, the Italian high-end clothing manufacturer has tapped Japanese designer Ichiro Seta as the new creative director of its Gibò line. The move stems from Gibò wanting to bring control of the collection back to Milan from London, where it had been designed by artist Julie Verhoeven since its debut for spring 2003.

Seta’s first collection will bow for spring-summer 2005 with a runway show held here during Milan Fashion Week at the end of the month. It previously had been shown during London Fashion Week.

In an interview at Gibò’s new showroom here, Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò, said the relationship with Verhoeven was “very good” and that there is no “tension” between them. Reached by phone, Verhoeven declined to comment.

“This appointment is part of a strategic choice to bring distribution in-house and create a direct link with clients,” said Pené, who spent 5 million euros, or $6.1 million, to purchase a 32,400-square-foot showroom in Milan to show and distribute Gibò and the other collections produced by the company.

“This is a very different scene from London and we wanted a collection that would be more in line with Milan and more commercial,” he said, noting how Verhoeven was very much connected to and associated with London.

With the new direction of the line, “it no longer made sense to show it in London,” he said, noting that Milan is a “starting point” and that he plans to invest in a showroom in Paris in the near future.

Pené said he was drawn to Seta’s knowledge of the métier. “He is technically very professional and knows materials, constructions, fits and production inside out,” he said

Seta, who lives in Tokyo but flies to Italy at least once a month, previously worked with Yohji Yamamoto and Jean Paul Gaultier. He launched his own brand, setaichiro, six years ago and has shown it in Milan for three seasons. Two years ago, he won the prestigious Enkamania award here.

“Ichiro uses his creative energy while understanding the commercial needs at the same time,” said Pené, who is known for scouting and supporting conceptual and innovative designers, contributing to the success of Gaultier, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, among others. In addition to the production of Paul Smith, Gibò currently makes and distributes the women’s collections for Antonio Berardi, Michael Kors and Project Alabama; the men’s collections for Marc Jacobs and Joseph, and both divisions for Viktor & Rolf and Hussein Chalayan.

This story first appeared in the September 10, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Pené said he has also agreed to produce and distribute setaichiro.

“I wanted a designer who would be in line with our company strategies and that would create a link with Julie’s artistic spirit, but now it’s time to accelerate [the line’s] growth,” he said of Gibò.

The collection is currently distributed in 50 points of sale. Pené hopes to reach 200 points of sale with the new collection, with an average price point of around 150 euros, or $180, wholesale. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange rates.

Seta prefers working with natural fibers and said his first Gibò collection was inspired by the desert’s color palettes. “I like to juxtapose silk and cotton, shiny and opaque surfaces, soft and rigid textures, with a gentle woman in mind,” said the designer in Japanese, aided by a translator.

The first Gibò collection will have fluid, but body-hugging silk chiffon and cotton dresses, pleated jersey tops and cropped pants in aqua-green, hazelnut-brown and cream. Seta embellished a few designs with easy, casual bows on the side or floral patterns. The collection is made up of about 150 designs, edited to around 40 for the show, which will be held at Gibo’s imposing steel and concrete showroom on Sept. 27.

Pené hopes Seta will help him develop the Japanese market, which he believes is the only one showing signs of a real turnaround. “It’s not true that business is improving so much everywhere — Europe is not picking up and the only two markets that are showing consistent signs of recovery are the U.S. and Hong Kong, but the first is too conditioned by the weak dollar…and how will business be after the elections?” he wondered.

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