Italian sportswear manufacturer and retailer
Formed: in Treviso, 1959, by Carlo Stefanel (1925-87); son Giuseppe joined firm, 1970s. Company History: Signed licensing agreements with Romeo Gigli, the Girbauds, Peter Handley and others; company went public; announced joint venture with Calvin Klein, 1995; formed K Service SpA and SKY Company SpA with Klein, 1996; opened first CK store, Milan, 1997; signed with Joyce Ma to license apparel in Hong Kong, 1997; expansion planned for the U.S., 2001-02. Company Address: 85 via Postumia, 31047 Ponte di Piave, Treviso, Italy.
"Knitting Patterns," in the Economist, 3 October 1987.
annon, Lisa, "Stefanel's Fantasy Trip," in WWD, 13 March 1992.
Ozzard, Janet, "Stefanel Deal Will Put CK Stores in Europe," in WWD, 20 December 1995.
"Restructuring Puts Stefanel in Red," in WWD, 18 March 1996.
"Stefanel Loses $12.6M in Half," in WWD, 3 October 1996.
Forden, Sara Gay, "Restructuring and Cuttine Costs Return Stefanel to Profitability," in WWD, 18 March 1998.
Stefanel is one of Italy's largest fashion companies, manufacturing young, sporty, wearable separates and knitwear for the young menswear and womenswear market. Sold in shops worldwide, Stefanel clothing is synonymous with good design in quality fabrics, as well its licensing agreements and a joint venture with Calvin Klein.
The company began in 1959 as a manufacturer of knitwear in Treviso, Italy. The brainchild of Carlo Stefanel, it quickly established a reputation for lively color and quality. Carlo's son Giuseppe Stefanel entered the business in the mid-1970s, with exciting plans for expansion into the broader fashion market of casual clothing, sportswear, jeans, and ready-to-wear. Through franchising, Stefanel developed a competitive distribution system that resulted in a steady growth in international markets, particularly in the Far East and Europe. Stefanel's development strategy has supported distribution growth by introducing carefully targeted production policies within the textile and clothing sector, constantly widening the breadth of product ranges.
Knitwear still plays a dominant role in Stefanel collections. For both menswear and womenswear the look is unisex, homespun, and traditional. Fair Isles, jacquards, stripes and checks are incorporated into cozy, easy shapes and restyled into modern, young looks. For evening there are slinky gold, ribbed knits and crochet designs teamed with black drainpipes and silky white blouses for a dressed-up look. Pioneer-style denims, chambray, tartans, and tiny paisley prints are the major woven fabrics used in oversize shirts, casual shirtwaist dresses, simple jackets, and wrap over minis with fringed hems. Cuban style jackets in heavy wool coating, teamed with fisherman jerseys, can give a nautical feel to the range.
Stefanel boutiques mix high-tech with traditional in their interiors. Simple wood floors and furniture are mixed with chrome and glass to create a spacious, modernistic shopping environment. The clothing is merchandised in a logical, easy way with garments arranged in color coordinated sections making it simple for the customer to put together an outfit. Such retail outlets were sprinkled throughout the UK, including its first shops in Ireland in the 1993. Stefanel also opened stores in major cities in China, the first consumer goods manufacturer to do so.
In the 1990s the firm experienced growth and a much higher profile. In 1995 Stefanel and Calvin Klein agreed to a joint venture to manufacture and distribute the popular CK bridge lines. The agreement further called for opening CK stores across Europe and in the Middle East, for Stefanel to acquire a production facility exclusively for CK apparel, and the formation of two new companies—K Service SpA (wholly-owned by Stefanel for manufacturing) and SKY Company SpA (73-percent owned by Stefanel, the remainder to Klein, for distribution). The glow from the Klein deal dimmed quickly, however, when Stefanel experienced its first ever losses in 1995 and 1996, due mostly to restructuring its worldwide operations. Then the following year top officials of the firm were under investigation by Italian authorities for fiscal fraud and falsifying documents, though charges had yet to filed.
Stefanel and Klein opened their first CK store in Milan in early 1997, and the former finally reaped the benefits of its reorganization and debt reduction of the last two years. For 1997 Stefanel was back in the black and the Klein venture was beginning to pay off. Stefanel then turned its attention to expansion outside Europe, namely in the U.S. where operated just a few stores. Guiseppe Stefanel has carried on the tradition his father began almost 50 years ago, and their firm is one of the few remaining independent fashion empires in Italy and beyond.
updated by Owen James