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Malo Updated With Tradition in View

When 6267 duo Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi took Malo's creative reins in July 2006, they had carte blanche save for one aspect â¿¿ they had to...

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MILAN — When 6267 duo Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi took Malo's creative reins in July 2006, they had carte blanche save for one aspect — they had to respect the brand's solid knitwear past.

"Malo is known for its fine Italian cashmere and style, a reputation built over decades, which makes it harder for the designers because they have to respect it," said Vittorio Notarpietro, chief executive of the IT Holding-owned brand. "It's much harder when you need to move the past forward."

Not for this pair. Their mission at the brand became to safeguard its DNA while adding a lifestyle appeal via edgy wovens and accessories that can easily be mixed and matched. In the designers' first show for spring 2007, they showed three pairs of shoes, a number that grew to 20 for next spring.

"We wanted to transform Malo into a lifestyle brand so we needed to treat knitwear differently and broaden the range to other yarns such as finely spun silk besides cashmere for the warmer days," Aquilano said.

They pumped up the trend volume and revved the knitwear with new proportions, cuts, yarns and textures and tempered the edgier styles with can't-go-wrong basics.

Silk knits are spun with the same techniques reserved for cashmere.

The spring collection was infused with an Oriental vibe that shone through with kimono-sleeved gossamer knits, embroideries and colored stone applications on sea blue dresses, obis and side-fastened boxy jackets over minidresses with floral motifs. Wholesale prices for basic pieces average $180 but rise to $1,800 for the embellished items.

"We started using 15th-century Florentine wood looms to weave the knitwear and the most interesting aspect is that we asked a crop of young 30-year-olds to use them," Aquilano said. "The result was very interesting."

The results are knits that look like fabrics and that have a wholesome feel.

To reach a broader customer base and boost the brand's sales of $81 million in 2007, Aquilano and Rimondi increased the number of woven items. The formula seems to be paying off as spring 2008 sales advanced 40 percent versus the same season the previous year. Notarpietro expects overall sales to grow by 10 percent next year.
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