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Carmen Marc Valvo on Cancer, Luxe Spending and Growth Plans

Carmen Marc Valvo had more than brand exposure in mind when he made a runway presentation at Natick Collection outside Boston.

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Carmen Marc Valvo had more than brand exposure in mind when he made a runway presentation at Natick Collection outside Boston.

"I'm a colon cancer survivor...any time there's an opportunity to raise awareness and money, I'm there," said the New York-based designer, who staged the luncheon show May 9 for Ovations for the Cure, a foundation supporting ovarian cancer awareness and research.

The event raised $150,000 and, along with Valvo, Carolina Herrera and Yves Saint Laurent donated merchandise for an auction.

Citing the troubled U.S. economy, Valvo estimated his business overall would be down 10 percent because of the retrenchment of "aspirational" shoppers who buy his ready-to-wear collection.

Valvo believes his wealthiest patrons are insulated from an economic downturn and seem to be viewing lavish goods as a kind of investment. His couture business, which includes gowns priced as high as $10,000, is trending up 20 percent, the best growth in a decade. Fine jewelry sales also have been strong.

"The money is still there, but people feel guilty about showing wealth," he said. "They don't want to be seen hauling that shopping bag with the luxury handbag out of the mall when a neighbor lost a job, hence online sales have never been stronger."

His lingerie line, a partnership with Cosabella, launches in the fall, but there are no other new deals immediately in the works. Over two decades, Valvo's business has grown beyond its signature eveningwear to include sportswear, shoes, fur, glasses, swim and fine jewelry.

Opening his own store remains a long-term goal, but the costs and complexities of Manhattan leasing have caused three deals to fall through in five years.

"A store projects your vision in its purest form," Valvo said. "I do get a little jealous when I see Michael Kors has opened another one."
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