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Bianca appoints new managing dir.

After six years in the Unites States, bath towel company Bianca USA is hoping to reach another level with the addition of a new managing director, Ricardo Abecassis, who looks to diversify its accounts and brand its house labels.

With the resources of its parent company, Mundotextil, and mill in Vizela, Portugal, Bianca USA has grown about 10 percent each year, with the goal of tripling its business by 2005, said Abecassis, the managing director who started Sept. 1. The U.S. market, in fact, accounts for 30 percent of Mundotextil's total sales, which includes direct imports to U.S. retailers and business generated by the U.S. office.

Abecassis, previously the sole equity owner of an Internet company in Portugal, wants to promote Bianca's qualities as a service-oriented company that produces higher-end product.

"Bianca wants to be viewed as a specialized towel producer that pays attention to the details," he said. "We need to push the Bianca name a bit … We're still small, but we're expanding."

American consumers are the most educated in the world, he added, and they understand individual brands. Besides its name, however, Bianca will also begin promoting the towels' origin with its new trademark slogan, "The towel of Portugal."

"There's a lot of value in that," he said, given Portugal's strong heritage.

Bianca's niche will remain jacquard towels, he added. The firm premieres more than 150 jacquard styles per year, bowing them only at the home textiles shows in New York and Heimtextil.

Before joining the firm's U.S. office in New Brunswick, NJ, Abecassis — a Portuguese citizen who also understands the U.S. mentality and market, he said — spent five months at Bianca's factory, learning the nuts and bolts of towel production. He replaced Reinaldo Chaves, who left the company previously.

"Reliability and flexibility are the two key words for the company," Abecassis said, adding that if Bianca USA produces a towel for a retailer, which in turn wants to make a small alteration, the company can do that within two weeks. "Direct importers won't do that," he said. "You have to be extremely well structured" to accomplish that.

Though Bianca currently has several large accounts that import directly from the mill, Abecassis wants to lessen that, and would rather U.S. retailers deal with the U.S. office. "Direct shipping is very impersonal," he said. "It doesn't provide service … U.S. accounts are looking for service."

For this market, several new color palettes will bow at market. A bridge color group of shamois, mid-tone blue, medium sage and a peachy rose will be used in more masculine-based towels with geometric patterning, constructed of chenilles and rayons. Spring colors of aqua, shell, lime and putty will be shown in towels of paisley, geometric and floral designs. All of the towels are made of modal/cotton or all cotton and in single jacquards, double jacquards and velours.

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