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As Better Market Reenergizes, Liz Arrives With New Dimension

The turmoil in the better category is creating a new market reality, and next week, Liz Claiborne, moving to protect its turf, will launch its Realities line.

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While Realities fills a void for Claiborne — it’s priced the same as the Sigrid Olsen bridge line, but has more tailored looks — it also helps buttress the firm’s better offerings against the upcoming onslaught of new and repositioned lines in the zone.

As reported, spring will see not only a new version of the Lauren by Ralph Lauren better line, but a rival line from Jones, the new Jones New York Signature collection. Also making the scene next spring will be the selective offerings of a Calvin Klein better line from Kellwood Co. and an enhanced positioning in the zone from Tommy Hilfiger Corp. with its expanded H line, among others.

While Ahrendts conceded “everyone’s light bulb went off” after the Lauren transition, she said the rising competitiveness of the more moderate chains has contributed to the sudden interest in better.

“They are so proactive and they have been aggressive on getting a hold of new brands,” she added, citing J.C. Penney’s distribution deal with Bisou Bisou.

Claiborne has steadily been strengthening its position in the better zone over the last several years, with Realities comprising only the latest link in the chain.

“We’re intensely focused on better because it’s our lifeblood,” said Ahrendts. “LVMH [Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton] does luxury, Liz does better.”
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