Rifle Anyone? The Bankrupt Denim Brand Seeks New Owner

MILAN – Another style icon of the Eighties risks disappearing from the fashion map.

Denim brand Rifle, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018, has been declared bankrupt by a court in Florence, Italy.

Established by Tuscan brothers Giulio and Fiorenzo Fratini, who in the late Forties started importing denim cloth from North Carolina, the brand reached its peak in the Eighties, when it was distributed in several countries. For example, Rifle was one of the first fashion companies to open stores in Russia, and in 1988 it sold 3 million denim pieces at Moscow’s legendary Gum department store.   

In the Nineties, increased international competition as well as lower demand for denim accelerated the decline of Rifle, which in 2000 went through a major reorganization. However, only two years later, weighed down by debt, the Fratini family liquidated the brand’s parent company, named Super Rifle, to establish Rifle srl.

In 2017, the new company attracted the investments of Swiss holding Kora Investments SA, which a year later increased its stake in the brand to 55 percent, becoming its majority shareholder.

Despite the efforts of denim veteran Franco Marianelli, Rifle president and chief executive officer, to re-launch the iconic jeans firm by focusing on an accessible price point and brand extensions, including footwear through a licensing agreement with Sport Commerce Italia Srl, the company couldn’t avoid seeking court protection from its creditors. However, the debt restructuring plan didn’t go through and the company was declared bankrupt by the Florence court.

According to Italian unions, Filctem Cgil and Femca Cisl, an agreement has been reached with commissioners to guarantee all of Rifle’s employees will be paid through a state wage-compensation fund for 12 months.

“With this agreement, for the moment we have safeguarded 100 percent of the company’s workforce, but it’s just a starting point. We believe that during the 12 months someone might express an interest in this brand, which represented Italian jeans in the world, and consequently the people working for it,” said in a statement Filctem Cgil’s Alessandro Lippi and Femca Cisl’s Gianluca Valacchi on Friday.

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