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Marchesa, LF USA Form Partnership

The brand, known for its red-carpet gowns, has inked a licensing deal to launch a lower-priced contemporary line.

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Marchesa RTW Fall 2012

NEW YORK — Marchesa wants a piece of the contemporary pie.

The brand, known for its red-carpet gowns, has inked a licensing agreement with LF USA to launch a lower-priced contemporary line. It marks a major brand expansion for the label, as well as a further push by the U.S. subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Li & Fung into the contemporary arena.

Designer Georgina Chapman and her Marchesa co-founder, Keren Craig, aim to bring many of the brand’s hallmarks — including embroidery and prints — to the new collection, with day clothes and accessories at suggested retail price points from $150 to $750.

LF USA will use its extensive global network to produce the line.

“We have always had a vision for Marchesa to be a lifestyle brand,” said Chapman, in an exclusive interview from Marchesa headquarters at the Starrett-Lehigh Building. “We have been very specific for eveningwear so far. We always had this dream Marchesa could transcend into all different areas of lifestyle.”

Marchesa’s contemporary collection is still in its nascent stages, and the company hasn’t decided on a name for it yet. Chapman said that the plan is to launch it around pre-fall 2013.

“It’s going to be under the Marchesa umbrella, but with a slightly different feel,” she said. “We have been so specific for such a long time, and the idea to broaden out to a different consumer, and to our same consumer as well. We haven’t really looked at that market yet. My dream is to give Marchesa many facets, and that’s just one of them.”

Craig added, “It’s something we always wanted to do, and we found time and the right people to do it with.”

With this deal, LF USA has snagged another designer name as it builds a contemporary portfolio and seeks to tap into the Millennial customer. As reported, LF USA recently signed a long-term licensing and design agreement with Vena Cava, the American label by Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai. LF USA also has apparel brands by the likes of Rachel Zoe, Sofia Vergara and Daisy Fuentes.

“Known for their incredible design talent, creative vision and trend-setting style, Georgina and Keren have built one of the premier luxury brands in the fashion industry,” said LF USA president Rick Darling. “We look forward to working together and see significant opportunities to extend the Marchesa brand experience.”

Chapman was drawn to LF USA’s global expertise. “I have always been so impressed by the work they have done,” she said. “I always thought it would be great to be able to use their manufacturing capabilities. Our aesthetic is so detail-oriented, so to be able to work with a company that can bring that detail to product in that price point is something that I found incredible.”

Asked what she thought she could add to the already-crowded contemporary sector, the London native said, “I am not really a traditional American sportswear designer, so I am hoping Marchesa will have something to offer that is very different from what’s on the floor at present.”

The contemporary category is just one of several initiatives at Marchesa to widen its reach. In addition to the Marchesa runway collection, Chapman designs a Marchesa bridal line and the Notte dress collection. More recently, the company launched tabletop with Lenox. Chapman and Craig declined to reveal projections for the new line, but said that the brand, excluding tabletop, has wholesale sales of about $25 million annually.

Edward Chapman, the firm’s chief executive officer and the designer’s brother, called the most recent move “a natural progression. We have the ‘Couture’ [runway collection] and Notte, and both are very evening focused,” he said.

“There is a huge potential,” he added. “We have strong businesses with our Couture and our Notte lines, but in terms of scope, if we’re going to do daywear and accessories, there is the opportunity for a very sizable business. That’s what we aim for.”