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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are expanding their fashion reach.
The sisters, entertainers and marketers almost since their infancy who last week became members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, have signed a deal with J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to launch Olsenboye, a junior brand that will be exclusive to the chain.
The collection will have a major rollout, set for 600 Penney’s stores in February. But the company aims to generate curiosity among teens well before the launch with what amounts to a new marketing approach for the retailer built around previews, limited offerings and digital, guerrilla and viral marketing tactics.
The effort kicks off Monday with an Olsenboye truck cruising around New York selling merchandise and giving out cupcakes, balloons and pins, and empty racks in 50 high-profile stores will be covered in Olsenboye shrouds. Beginning Nov. 6, Olsenboye will be available on jcp.com and in those 50 stores, including the Manhattan flagship, for a limited time.
There also will be a teaser video for the preview collection on olsenboye.com featuring teen characters.
For the full launch in the spring, there will be broadcast spots, magazine print ads and direct-mail pieces. There also will be an interactive digital campaign on jcp.com, Penney’s teen Facebook page and Twitter.
For the last several seasons, Penney’s has been unleashing new labels and designer exclusives while culling out brands that have lost relevance, striving to modernize its image, catering to more of a teen and contemporary crowd and offering something different.
Among its consumer base, “the propensity for trying and adapting new brands is terrific,” said Liz Sweney, Penney’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s. “We are stepping up our style to attract a younger customer” with such recent launches as Bisou Bisou, I [Heart] Ronson, Allen B., Oxford & Regent and Twelfth of Eleven, all contemporary lines done in collaboration with designers and brands. Last month, Penney’s launched its first contemporary label, called she said, created by its own design team. Arizona and Decree are among the key junior brands at the store, but the retailer also still sells more traditional lines geared to a more mature crowd, such as Worthington, and has just signed a deal with Liz Claiborne Inc. to be the exclusive retailer for the Liz Claiborne line. “We love our older customer, as well,” Sweney noted.
When it comes to price, however, Penney’s has maintained its moderate, value-driven, promotional posture. Olsenboye, which is the Olsens’ ancestral name, will fall into Penney’s good and better price tiers. Olsenboye is a casual sportswear and accessories collection that includes denim, bottoms, tops, dresses, skirts, shorts, jackets, handbags and shoes. The line will retail from $20 to $50 and is being designed to be mixed to create different looks. The brand also will periodically flow in travel-inspired mini collections, each reflecting the looks and trends of different cities.
“It’s very fun, fashion driven, trendy and wholesome at the same time,” Sweney said.
While it’s got the Olsens’ spirit, it’s not limited to their size, ranging from sizes 0 to 15. “It’s really important that Olsenboye serves lots of girls,” Sweney said. “It’s not just about girls size zero or one.”