NEW YORK — Luigi Botto is expanding beyond its traditional wool base, following the Biella, Italy-based mill’s acquisition of converter Gartex International, traditionally a cotton specialist.

This story first appeared in the January 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The idea is, within the group customers can go from a voile, to a cotton quality for pants…all the way up to 100 percent cashmere,” said Umberto Paccotto, sales director for the Gartex division.

Arianna Leone, who handles marketing and communications for the mill, said the deal for Gartex closed in July. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Luigi Botto now produces about 6 million meters of fabric a year, as well as yarn, and employs about 800, she said. Leone noted that the company has invested heavily in upgrading its systems and machinery in recent years to prepare for 2005, when competition is expected to intensify in the already tough textile market after the nations of the World Trade Organization drop their quotas on fabrics and garments.

“In the past three years, we have spent 70 million euros [$88.4 million at current exchange rates] on technology and brought a new spinning system…to cut down costs” and be more flexible, she said. One option that’s not on the table, she added, was moving production out of Botto’s home country.

“Strategically, we want to remain in Italy,” she said. “So, we are just revamping our technology and processes.”

Paccotto said the company would not try to beat Far Eastern competitors at their own game.

“It’s difficult to compete with China,” he said. “You can’t beat them down on price. You have to stay one step ahead of them” on product development.