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Adding Another Spin: Kritik Updates Sweatsuits (Again)

Eisbar co-founder Bobby Benveniste, and his three partners, including Lizzie Grubman's former business partner Jonathan Cheban, aren't reinventing the...

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Eisbar co-founder Bobby Benveniste, and his three partners, including Lizzie Grubman's former business partner Jonathan Cheban, aren't reinventing the fashion wheel. Instead, they're giving it a new spin in the form of sweatsuits.

Their bicoastal line, Kritik, gives new luster to the no-brainer ensemble whose star once shone brightly thanks to the designs of Juicy Couture. According to retailers, there's a void in the market for matchy-matchy French terry sets even as customers embrace a more sophisticated silhouette of dresses, trousers and high-waisted styles.

"It turns out we need new sweats," said Lisa Kline, who owns boutiques in Malibu, Beverly Hills and on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles and picked up Kritik's first shipment in spring. "Juicy has been around for a while. Customers want something new and Kritik is the first to do something updated in that niche."

The capsule line began with about six knit hoodies, matching bottoms in shorts and long pants and rompers that pop with signature striping in high-wattage hues of kelly green, canary yellow and melon orange. In place of heavy embellishments or washes, Kritik strives for a clean edge under the design direction of Marisol Arteaga with white enamel zipper pulls, fabric-covered buttons, contrast hoodie inserts, long bat sleeves and sassy shapes, such as hot-pants bottoms with side ties and a wrap hoodie cover-up for poolside chic.

"We wanted to do the opposite of a distressed look," said Benveniste, chief executive officer of the line. "Using lots of graphics can end up taking the place of actual design."

By spring, the collection will double to 12 pieces in fleece and French terry fabrics including nautical pants, long-sleeve fleece hoodies and sleeveless hoodies to accommodate differing coastal temperatures. Giving retailers extra fashion options (including Bermuda shorts styles for conservative shoppers) and exclusives on colors has helped the line to a strong launch in about 70 specialty doors, including Blue Bee in Santa Barbara, Calif., Intermix in New York and Moody Blue's in Chandler, Ariz. Wholesale prices range from $42 to $75.

But the partners, including Zy Owens, the company's chief operating officer, and Mark Steinman, aren't in a hurry to ratchet up Kritik's $2 million in sales. Perhaps it's a lesson learned from Benveniste's former days running Eisbar, a graphically driven sportswear line that shipped its final order in fall 2006, along with his time spent as a member of the erstwhile trade organization the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers, which formed in 1998 to put local designers on the fashion cognoscenti's radar.
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