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High End Designers Turn to Mass Retailers With New Collections

Tuesday October 27, 2009
New York, NY

Hoping to boost sales in this tough economy, retailers are using an increasingly popular technique: launching high-profile clothing lines from high-end designers and celebrities. JC Penney has been creative in the breadth of its reach, turning to designers from Nicole Miller and Charlotte Ronson for new collaborations, as well as model-turned-designer Kimora Lee Simmons, whose new line “Fabulosity” launched earlier this summer, while Target has most recently teamed up with Anna Sui, Liz Lange and Rodarte.

“Designers and retailers are really thinking outside the box in terms of new offerings that speak to their target consumers, are on-trend and at a price point that works for them,” says Linda DeFranco, Director, Product Trend Analysis, Cotton Incorporated. “And launching a line with a big retailer like JC Penney or Target allows these high-end designers to increase their brand awareness with consumers who want to wear their pieces, but don’t have the budget for it.”

That mass retailers are looking to collaborate with high-end designers or celebrities should come as no surprise; 25% of women aged 13-24 admit to looking to celebrities for sources of clothing ideas, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle MonitorTM survey, and 63% say they shop at mass merchants for apparel.

From Charlotte Ronson at JC Penney to Jimmy Choo at H&M, and Rodarte at Target, set to launch December 22, to Kimora Lee Simmons’s “Fabulosity” line, designers are finding that a partnership with a large retailer makes sense in this recession, allowing them to get their designs out to a larger audience, and at a price point that works.

Denim plays a starring role in many of these collections, since almost three quarters of consumers say they are purchasing more (55%) or the same amount (18%) of denim as they did last year, according to Monitor data.

Maternity wear is another segment of apparel that’s seeing a designer influence; Liz Lange recently launched Liz Lange Maternity at Target, complete with her signature knits and separates for moms-to-be, like the gray boyfriend cotton cardigan and the flex panel denim jeans.

Anna Sui’s line for Target, on the other hand, adds a new twist: the collection is modeled after fashions worn by the characters on the hugely popular television series “Gossip Girl”. A black and beige cotton herringbone dress, for example, is the perfect addition to any fall wardrobe; it can be dressed up with heels or dressed down with boots for a more casual look.

“Cotton is a fashionable fabric at a comfortable price point, so it makes sense that these designers are integrating it into their collections,” says DeFranco. “And despite the recession, denim has been selling well, so it’s not surprising that new styles and silhouettes in denim are staples of these designer collections, at softer prices suitable for these mass retailers.”

Charlotte Ronson’s I ‘Heart’ Ronson line, exclusively at JC Penney, features edgy separates, like a cropped double-breasted short-sleeve cotton jacket, and heavily distressed boyfriend jeans, cropped slightly to show off super high heels. Kimora Lee Simmons’s line shows off classic pieces like skinny jeans in a vibrant green, and cropped denim jackets with bold embellishments like oversize gold buttons.

Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. growers of upland cotton and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, is the research and marketing company representing upland cotton. The Program is designed and operated to improve the demand for and profitability of cotton.


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