Striking a Balance in Milan

Executives at fashion houses hope the spring 2004 season finally brings light to what has been three dark, gloomy years.

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Similarly, Ferruccio Ferragamo, chief executive at Salvatore Ferragamo, said, “We used the past two years to reflect on future strategies, to focus on the product and streamline operations. We need to be more reactive and to be more cost-oriented and competitive.”

Cristiana Ruella, the chief financial officer at Dolce & Gabbana, confirmed the importance of a balanced strategy for distribution.

“We’re receiving reassuring feedback from our specialty store clients,” said Ruella, adding that supporting specialty stores with an appealing array melding trends and reasonable prices is critical.

Ferré slashed the prices on its pre-spring collection by 30 percent, thanks to unfussy constructions and less-elaborate fabrics. “We kept the more dramatic and important eveningwear for the catwalk because that’s what retailers want from us,” said Mambelli.

The move was well-received in the U.S., “where wholesale sales have doubled and where Bergdorf Goodman opened a Ferré in-store shop, partly fueled by good sales results,” said Mambelli.

Retail prices range from $1,875 for a crepe wool and viscose suits to $790 for a cotton poplin shirt and $1,500 for a pair of embroidered leather pants. Also well received was the new cruise collection of 240 pieces.

The It Holding-owned company is moving ahead full-throttle with plans to streamline and court a younger, hipper clientele, including Beyoncé and Kim Cattrall.

Steven Fairchild attributes part of his success to an appealing quality-to-price ratio. Fairchild, whose company is a joint-venture with the Mariella Burani Fashion Group, expects to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 pieces this season, a 15 percent increase against last spring’s sales. “I feel like Seabiscuit. I’m really going for it because I believe we have a valid, high-quality brand with an accessible price, which is key in today’s market,” he said.

To boost business, Fairchild has signed a three-year licensing agreement with A&M, an accessories manufacturer under the Mariella Burani umbrella, to produce and distribute accessories and small leather goods. The collection will debut with fall 2004 but a first flash will complement the spring runway looks. In the pipeline are a men’s collection and a fragrance.
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