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Betsey Bundles Up

Betsey Johnson will have no problem keeping warm this fall.

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NEW YORK — Betsey Johnson will have no problem keeping warm this fall.

The designer, known for her quirky contemporary style, has signed a licensing agreement with The Levy Group here to produce a full collection of outerwear that will include rainwear, fake fur items, active jackets, down coats and wool coats. The line is scheduled to hit department and specialty stores for fall retailing.

While prices haven't been set, executives at the firm said they will be competitive in the better designer areas in coat departments. Designs are still being finalized, but company executives stressed that Betsey Johnson outerwear will stay true to its namesake by using a palette of the designer's favorite colors, such as pink, turquoise and orange, in addition to black and white. Also included in the line will be signature print linings, such as Betsey's leopard; baby rosebud, and lace and Betseyville rose, together with construction details including zipper pulls and neck chains in the form of the lightning bolt icon or rosebud charm. Snaps and buttons will be found in the shapes of hearts and roses.

"We wanted an unmistakable, original identity," said Donald Levy, president of The Levy Group, which produces outerwear under such labels as Liz Claiborne, Dana Buchman, Esprit, Braeten and Donnybrook. "Betsey Johnson's aesthetic combines contemporary, punk, pretty and glamour. We're excited to add her name to the coat department where many sportswear names are thriving."

This licensing agreement is the designer's first since she sold a majority stake in her company in August to Castanea Partners, a private equity firm based in Boston.

"We are growing slowly as planned, but continue to look for growth in licensing," said Chantal Bacon, chief executive officer of Betsey Johnson. "Currently, we are looking for partners in denim, T-shirt dressing and cosmetics. Those are the priority."

Bacon said she is also looking to expand in Japan, where the brand already does well. In the U.S., she said the company is slated to open six stores this year, which will add to the brand's 52 freestanding locations nationwide.

Currently, Betsey Johnson generates a little more than $200 million in retail volume through its freestanding stores and wholesale distribution. With this new partnership with Castanea, Bacon said she hopes to grow that number even more through more licensing agreements and 10 to 12 more freestanding store openings a year.
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