By and  on August 20, 2008

NEW YORK — The Calvin Klein world at G-III Apparel Group Ltd. just got significantly bigger.

Calvin Klein Inc. on Tuesday signed a licensing agreement with the sportswear and outerwear manufacturer for Calvin Klein better women’s sportswear, beginning with the spring shipping season. G-III is taking over the license from Kellwood Co., confirming a July 22 report in WWD.

The ck Calvin Klein bridge license, also held by Kellwood, is not included in the deal with G-III, and a spokeswoman for Calvin Klein said that line will continue with Kellwood for now.

“G-III’s approach to each of the licensed Calvin Klein business categories that they currently operate has proven to be successful, and we anticipate that they will have similar results with the women’s sportswear business,” said Tom Murry, CKI’s president and chief operating officer.

The move could be seen as a coup for G-III, which is increasingly becoming a Calvin Klein powerhouse. The New York-based company already holds the Calvin Klein licenses for women’s and men’s better outerwear, women’s better dresses and suits and women’s performance apparel.

“We’re very excited about the deal because we at G-III have a business model that works well with the Calvin Klein business model and organization,” said Sammy Aaron, vice chairman of G-III. “We’re already spending some quality time with the people at Calvin Klein, evaluating trends and price points and depth.”

When asked if G-III would also be interested in the bridge license, Aaron said, “G-III is always interested in talking to the Calvin Klein people. We’re hoping the successes we’ve had of the past five years continues with this [white label] sportswear.”

Kellwood’s better Calvin Klein license dates back to 2003, when it was a joint venture with GAV. Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., which owns Calvin Klein Inc., extended the license, granting Kellwood the full rights to the Calvin Klein women’s better sportswear label in October 2006. At the time, it also granted Kellwood the ck Calvin Klein women’s bridge sportswear license for North America.

The better line, which features a white label, is said to be largely underperforming in the already-challenged department store better zones. The most recent change in licensees is said to come as a result of PVH’s disappointment with the line’s performance under Kellwood.

In terms of volume, the better-priced line has the potential to be a significant contributor to the CKI business. In the U.S., CKI is pushing ahead with its rollout of Calvin Klein specialty retail stores, having opened five such units last year,and four stores this year. There are plans to add an additional unit at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif., before yearend.

As part of the new deal, G-III acquires the rights to manufacture and distribute the better sportswear collection to department and specialty stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central and South America territories.

In addition to developing private label lines for retailers and operating 116 Wilsons Leather outlet stores, G-III has licenses for such fashion names as Sean John, Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole,Jessica Simpson, House of Deréon and Tommy Hilfiger.

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