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Sources said Tuesday that the designer, whose signature coats, dresses and suits routinely retail for four figures and beyond, has held serious talks with Penney’s about the possibility of launching a new label at the chain.
“It is something he is considering,” a close source said, “but the truth is, he doesn’t have any contractual arrangement with anyone at this point.”
While negotiations could take another season to conclude and could turn into something else or fall apart entirely, sources said the parties involved will present a concept for an Oscar de la Renta spinoff within a matter of weeks in the moderate-to-better price zone for spring 2004 retailing. It would have a new, as yet undecided, name that would be positioned so that it does not compete with or compare to de la Renta’s existing license for bridge sportswear under the Oscar by Oscar de la Renta label.
Adding a de la Renta concept to the store would be a major coup for Penney’s, which has been striving to recreate its image as a fashion-oriented, moderate-priced department store for the masses with the introduction of new and exclusive labels over the past year. In February, the store launched its exclusive Bisou Bisou contemporary collection, designed by Michele Bohbot, in about half of its 1,048 stores, and the next month announced an exclusive rollout of a plus-size collection called True Beauty by Emme.
The de la Renta concept is said to be priced a tad higher than the basic moderate zone, playing off the prestige of the designer’s $600 million fashion empire, although it could not be immediately learned just what type of customer Penney’s has in mind or whether flamenco skirts and ruffled blouses would really translate to the $100-and-under crowd.
But one thing for certain is that under the strategy led by Allen Questrom, chairman and chief executive of the Penney’s corporation, and Vanessa Castagna, chairman and ceo of stores, catalog and Internet, there’s no intention of repeating the company’s designer albatross of the Eighties, when the store failed to drive sales with watered-down Halston and Mary McFadden collections.