After 22 years in business, the French non-conformist of the optical world feels that the biggest challenges are still ahead of him. He has no desire to take his private company public, nor to be a giant, but concedes that the firm is too big to work as it has done in the past, and yet, too small to be competitive in today's market. An innovative software computer system will be introduced in September to help cope with recent and future growth.

Sales increased to 165 million French francs (e25m-$23m) in the year ended last Aug. 31, as compared to 143 million FF in the previous year, not including Mikli's unique new women's ready-to-wear, which is just beginning. Mikli believes that his firm can be three times bigger than it is today.

The strategy for development includes building a stronger customer service program and further expanding manufacturing processes while maintaining the brand's reputation for creativity and design. The product range will be expanded next fall with the launch of a coordinated collection of jeans and eyewear under the ?Mikli by Mikli' label. Issaye Miyake eyewear, designed by Mikli, will debut at SILMO in October.

The Alain Mikli network of stores will undergo a further major development this year. Aside from the opening of its 4th store in Tokyo at the end of May, the company plans to launch later this year a new store format, designed by Philippe Starck, the French interior designer. It will be showcased for the first time at the first German Alain Mikli store, due to be opened in Düsseldorf next September. The new retail format will eventually be duplicated at a 3rd Parisian outlet toward the end of this year, and then in other cities around the world. Mikli's only other store is in New York.

Mikli stores feature the various optical ranges designed by Mikli (Alain Mikli, Alain Mikli Diffusion France, Starck Eyes, Jil Sander Eyes) as well as his ready-to-wear collections for men and women, first launched in 1998. Mikli incorporates the same humor, creativity and function in his clothing designs as in his peculiar eyewear styles. There are plans for other accessories, but these will be launched ?step-by-step'.

Mikli sees a new direction unfolding in optical retailing, combining eyewear with clothing and other coordinated items. A Dublin optician has adopted this concept by selling Mikli ready-to-wear in an adjacent shop. Mikli has no desire to pursue store franchising.