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If Candie's shoes and Sergio Valente jeans could make a comeback, can Fiorucci be far behind?

The Milan-based sportswear company, whose lie-down-to-zip-up jeans were everywhere in the days of disco, plans a U.S. comeback in time for Christmas. The company will open a store in Manhattan as its U.S. flagship later this year, backed by an marketing campaign from new agency Mezzina/Brown, New York.

After a false start in department stores two years ago, Fiorucci is changing its strategy and will open its own retail stores, said Stephen Budd, president of New York-based Bennini, Fiorucci's U.S. distributor.

The New York store will have a cafe, tattoo parlor and other attractions to bring in young shoppers, Mr. Budd said.

"We're going to do it our way, we're not going to do it the mass way," he said.


The return of Fiorucci will get under way formally next week with a relaunch party at Bennini's showroom. A mall boutique in White Plains, N.Y. has already been open for a month, but the real test will come in late fall, when Fiorucci's megastore opens in the Big Apple. Las Vegas and Los Angeles stores will be next, to be followed by more mall-based boutiques, Mr. Budd said.

Mezzina/Brown, which helped remake another fading icon -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s Camel cigarettes -- was hired by Fiorucci last winter and will craft a launch campaign for the store. Media spending has not yet been determined, but Mr. Budd said the budget would be around "a couple of million" dollars.

The effort will include a guerrilla campaign of wild postings, postcards, outdoor boards, bus posters, taxi tops and bus shelters.

"I don't want to be lost in a magazine. I want to be in their face," Mr. Budd said.

The New York store has been modeled after Fiorucci's in Milan, which sells apparel alongside products from other marketers that match its trademark colorful style.

"You have to have the Fiorucci attitude to be in this little world," he said.

In its heyday, Fiorucci's attitude -- and the funky clothes created by founder Elio Fiorucci -- were a staple of the disco scene. When the company celebrated its 15th anniversary party at Studio 54 in 1983, Madonna jumped out of the birthday cake.

But Fiorucci went into a slump in the late 1980s. New management arrived in the early '90s, retrenching and cutting off most of its U.S. distribution until Bennini acquired U.S. rights to the brand and relaunched it in 1997.


That initial effort, centered on mass-market retailers, was disappointing, Mr. Budd said. Although boomers who remembered the brand were interested, sales were weak among the 15-to-25-year-old target audience.

"I thought I could go to Macy's and hang next to Tommy Hilfiger," he said.

It didn't work, because Fiorucci's $58 jeans and $30 T-shirts were priced too high for mass-market stores.

So Mr. Budd regrouped and decided to reposition the brand in fewer, more upscale outlets. He is currently negotiating with Nordstrom to expand distribution from the Midwest into other regions, and Fiorucci's in-store shops in Bloomingdale's stores will grow from four locations to 10 by the end of 1999.

The company also will expand its offerings and its direct sales through the Internet, Mr. Budd said. He also plans to over-haul the company's Web site ( and would like to add a printed catalog as well. Fiorucci will also launch a new sportswear line in the fall, the Elio Fiorucci

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