MILAN — Gibo SpA, the high-end apparel manufacturer, has added another cutting-edge designer to its stable — Antonio Berardi — and is launching its first in-house ready-to-wear line, naming Julie Verhoeven to design it.

On Monday, the Tuscan-based Gibo said it had signed a licensing agreement with Berardi to produce and distribute his signature women’s collection. Gibo will pick up the end of Berardi’s fall 2002 business since the designer handled it himself after having broken off with ITC, a division of IT Holding, which produced his collections for two seasons before this one.

“We literally just signed the agreement so we’ll help Berardi finish the upcoming fall season, but the plans we’re laying out for the brand will kick off with spring 2003,” said Franco Pene chairman of Gibo.

Pene, an entrepreneur who has never shied from turning into reality the off-the-wall designs of Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier, among others, conceded that the brand has much potential and, by spring 2006, could easily triple the designer’s current volume of $2.6 million.

“We want to give the product the right quality-to-price ratio, make sure it’s distributed to at least 200 select doors worldwide and that deliveries are streamlined and punctual,” said Pene. There could even be a men’s line in the brand’s future, he added.

For his part, Berardi said: “Gibo has a big stable of designers, with highly distinguishable collections that are never manipulated when it comes to creativity. They are also amazing with distribution and making projections when it comes to fabrics. That’s what it takes to make a brand grow.”

Meanwhile, Gibo’s first in-house rtw line — which doesn’t have a name yet — will bow for spring 2003 and will be priced at the lower end of the designer rtw scale. Pene said he chose Verhoeven, a London-based freelance designer, illustrator and stylist, because he wants the new line to buzz with London’s creative energy. Verhoeven, who has worked with Martine Sitbon, Richard Tyler and Cacharel, said she plans to do a collection that’s full of prints, color and her favorite fabric — georgette.

“Gibo has given me free reign to do what I like,” she said. The line will show in London starting this fall.

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