PARIS — Christian Lacroix SNC has shifted gears with its men’s wear development, signing on a new Italian licensee for tailored clothing and sportswear, and putting on hold a project in North America with Peerless Clothing International.At the same time, the brand has signed a new license in the U.S. for accessories with AHQ-Accessory Headquarters.Lacroix chief executive officer Nicolas Topiol said the company would unveil its first collection with Lubiam during Men’s Fashion Week in Milan in June for the spring 2014 season, signaling a more upscale direction for the brand — and international ambitions.“We’re now focusing on establishing our U.S. presence with our European, made-in-Italy collection,” he said, noting Lacroix would “revisit” a line with Peerless at a later date.Lacroix’s longtime tailored clothing partner in France, Sadev, went into liquidation late last year, precipitating the search for a new European partner.Founded in 1911 and still controlled by the Bianchi family, Lubiam plans to manufacture and distribute Lacroix collections in Europe, the Middle East and North America, targeting high-end distribution channels including department and specialty stores. It is the firm’s first license.Based in Mantova, Lubiam has been exporting to the U.S. since the Sixties. Today it ships to about 1,500 doors in 37 countries, including 85 stores in the U.S., Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom among them, according to Topiol.Pricing of the Lacroix line has yet to be finalized, but Topiol said suits would likely retail from about 750 euros to 1,200 euros, or $980 to $1,570 at current exchange.Topiol noted that despite Sadev’s shuttering, shipments of men’s shirts and knitwear by its other French partner, Rousseau, would continue this year until the expiration of that licensing contract.The Peerless project, unveiled in late 2011, was to be the first men’s wear volley across the pond for the Paris-based brand, which currently sells only stationery, eyewear, home textiles, candles and other home accessories in the U.S. following the shuttering of its couture and women’s wear operations in 2009.Lacroix is also tiptoeing back into the women’s fashion universe, having signed the a license with AHQ-Accessory Headquarters LLC to launch women’s and men’s handbags, small leather goods and travel items.The five-year agreement covers North America and is to commence with the crucial holiday selling season.The partners plan to unveil select styles in May for that delivery, with a full assortment for spring 2014 being readied for the August market.Currently, the brand only has distribution in the category in Europe and Asia, with the exception of duty-free shops in the U.S.Abe Chehebar, president of AHQ, said the firm — which also owns Kooba, V Couture by Kooba, Hayden-Harnett, Yak Pak and GoSac — will create two lines for Christian Lacroix. The existing, higher-end Christian Lacroix Paris selection will retail from $300 to $900, and a soon-to-be-launched CXL by Christian Lacroix collection, comprised of man-made materials, from $75 to $300. Both collections will preview during May market and hit department and specialty stores, as well as e-commerce channels, for the holiday season. “What we found interesting about this whole thing is that [Lacroix’s] business in Europe is very strong and we were impressed with the lineup of product they’re offering in that market,” Chehebar said. ”There was plenty of inspiration for us to go with for the U.S. market from what’s already being distributed and proven in the European market.”Chehebar has robust projections for the two lines — estimating between $8 million and $10 million in wholesale sales for 2014. “I think a recognition is definitely there [in the U.S.], and the aesthetic of the brand in Europe is unique and it has a nice place for a niche in the U.S. market,” he added.
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