Launching for fall, the line draws its influence from the Mediterranean, manifested in its drapes, gathers and pleats. As jersey lines proliferate in Southern California, Cleo is trying to stand out by using double-knit silk jersey and MicroModal jersey in rich hues such as chocolate, graphite, black, magenta and emerald green.
A tan sleeveless tunic is spruced up with shirring on the armholes and an asymmetrical fold over the waist. A black minidress evokes a romantic, feminine mood with exaggerated ruffles cascading from the shoulders. The design is also elevated through hidden stitch work achieved by the use of double layers and French seams.
"We wanted to bring the same level of sophistication [from Aristocrat] to the line," said Bob Bak, designer for Aristocrat and Cleo, which he runs as two separate businesses in Beverly Hills.
For his new venture, he is targeting the Aristocrat customer. Aristocrat bowed last spring with wholesale prices between $70 and $105. It is sold at stores such as Mario's in Portland, Ore.; Jamie in Nashville, Forty Five Ten in Dallas, Scoop in New York; Intermix, and Barneys New York.
Bak said he wants to combine designer quality with contemporary prices. His goal is to generate $4 million in wholesale sales in Cleo's first year, matching what Aristocrat made in its initial year. Even though choosing to use imported fabrics for Cleo forces Bak to shrink his profit margins, he said he liked the weight and quality of the silk and MicroModal jerseys, features he believes are missing in other lines.
"The economy is soft, but I think we have found a particular area where we can maximize our sales and product," Bak said.
Wholesaling for $78 to $120, Cleo has been ordered by specialty retailers including Blue Genes in Atlanta; Joe Brand in Laredo, Tex.; Zabayon in Manalapan, N.J., and True Blue in New Canaan, Conn.
Chris Seelig, who handles sales for Aristocrat and Cleo at Brothers & Sisters Showroom, acknowledged there is some crossover between the stores that picked up both lines. Many of Cleo's tops are intended to be worn with the high-rise jeans that Aristocrat offered for fall. Still, at the end of the day, Seelig said retailers aren't concerned with price or overlap in styling. "It's about the look and quality of the garment," he said.