Biella, Italy-based textile mill Carlo Barbera has found its white knight in Kiton, the Neapolitan tailored clothing company established in 1956 by Ciro Paone.

During a fashion preview in New York City on Wednesday, Antonio De Matteis, Kiton’s chief executive officer, revealed his company has purchased a controlling stake in the mill, which has been weighed down by financial problems. He said the purchase price was 3.3 million euros, or $4.5 million at current exchange. The deal does not include the Luciano Barbera clothing line that is available at luxury stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

This story first appeared in the October 7, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Founded in 1949 by Carlo Barbera, the high-end yarn manufacturer is managed by his son Luciano Barbera, a staunch supporter of the Made in Italy label. Competition from low-cost manufacturing countries has bitten into Carlo Barbera’s bottom line over the past few years.

De Matteis said Luciano Barbera will act as a consultant for the mill and its 40 employees will be retained. Corrado Barbera, who currently heads the facility, will be in charge of sales, Kiton said.

“Barbera is one of the best fabric mills in Italy,” De Matteis said. “We think we will have a good future together.” He said Kiton does not currently have its own fabric operation but has used Barbera as a supplier for many years. He said that while Barbera is expected to be “a bigger and bigger supplier to our collection, we will still use other mills in Italy and England.”

De Matteis said Kiton, which is known for high-end tailored clothing and sportswear, has experienced a 30 percent increase in sales through September of this year over 2009. He noted that sales in department stores in the U.S. have been especially strong. The newly launched Cipa line, which is a less expensive alternative, is also performing well, De Matteis said, and the company will continue with its current distribution, which is exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman and select Neiman Marcus stores for next season.

In addition to its wholesale business, Kiton operates 35 stores around the world, including a New York City flagship and a unit in Las Vegas. Next month, a store is slated to open in the Bal Harbour Shops in Florida, De Matteis said, which will be located between Hermès and Louis Vuitton. 

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