fashion-features
fashion-features

Designer Democracy: Rushing to Better for Big Volume and Riches

Better sportswear is suddenly chic, attracting the likes of Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Nicole Miller and Ron Chereskin to its volume-oriented realm.

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“Why should fashion be barricaded by a price?” Jeffry Aronsson, chief executive officer of Marc Jacobs International, asked recently.

Aronsson was specifically discussing Jacobs’ move to a better-priced line, a third tier in his growing empire, but his remarks also signaled the breaking of barriers and a focus on the mainstream market from a range of designers and brands. Even Jacobs himself, whose designer collection retails in the thousands of dollars, discounted the idea that an affordable line would take away from his signature collection.

“I’m really into it and I don’t think it would negate anything,” Jacobs told WWD in a story in June. “What we’ve found was the customer who wears the designer line also wears the [secondary line] Marc by Marc and it kind of had an appeal on its own. So why would [this new line] be any different?”

Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, said last week he hopes to have a deal signed to license the better-priced line before August, with the collection ready for retail by the second-half of 2004. Industry sources have said two U.S. firm are in the lead for it: Jones Apparel Group and Kellwood Co. If that deal is struck, sources have estimated Marc Jacobs’ men’s and women’s apparel business could produce annual wholesale revenues of more than $200 million.

“We’re still negotiating with a couple different people and it’s progressing, but nothing is easy when you have a large corporation behind you,” Duffy said. “Everyone is into the idea, and Marc and I have wanted to do this for years. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on board with the partners and that’s what’s taking the longest. LVMH has never done something like this before as a luxury group, but Marc and I want to do more and we’re doing it.”

Duffy said he and Jacobs have been busy discussing the concepts and all the possibilities for this new line, which include its own stores. He spoke of everything from fragrances, to makeup and interesting packaging as opportunities to fill out the better brand.

“I’ve already scouted out the locations for the stores, and in New York, I would do uptown. I think it would be cooler for this line to be uptown [than downtown],” Duffy said. “And I want it to be a whole sportswear base, not just all jeans or denim, but what real people wear. This line won’t be about an age, but a price. It’s going to be Marc Jacobs designing a line at this price. I don’t get these categories like better, bridge, blah, blah, but we’ve wanted to do this since the beginning.”
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