By  on February 25, 2008

After showing his fall collection during New York Fashion Week, Oscar de la Renta is already on to the next project — a license for O Oscar handbags and small leather goods with Wathne Ltd.

The collection of refined suede and leathers with hardware and embroidery accents will launch in better department stores and specialty stores in July. This will be the first O Oscar handbag collection to make its debut at retail. At one point, the designer had a deal with The Betesh Group, but "that never really went anywhere," a de la Renta spokeswoman said. Wholesale prices for the new collection will range from $100 to $200.

"Handbags are an important accessory for the modern woman who is constantly on the go, adding both style and function to her look," de la Renta said.

Wathne had been the exclusive licensee for Ralph Lauren handbags and luggage for more than 20 years, but that deal has ended. The company looks forward to "a long and successful partnership" with de la Renta, said Laura Gunther, president of Wathne Licensing LLC. "Oscar de la Renta is an extraordinary designer and we are privileged to work with him and his team."

The O Oscar deal isn't the only thing to put the Wathne name in the news lately; it also has been splashed all over the New York tabloids. After three years on the run, Stefan Wathne, a member of the owning family, was arrested and pleaded not guilty to money-laundering charges last month. He was accused of using drug money to launder $3 million.

Wathne was set free on a $5 million bond into the custody of his mother Thorrun and her sisters Soffia and Berge. The three sisters still work in the family business, but Stefan has never been involved with the company, a Wathne spokesman said Friday.

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