LOS ANGELES — Five years after its purchase by Liz Claiborne Inc., Laundry by Shelli Segal is finally stepping out for its dance with expansion.
The contemporary brand of dresses and sportswear has made a licensing deal for bridesmaid dresses and plans to add more products. A retail push in the U.S. and abroad is in the works, with a Miami store to debut in November.
Until now, the line’s sister companies under the Liz umbrella captured much of the spotlight, including Sigrid Olsen, Lucky Brand Dungarees and most notably Juicy Couture. Industry executives downplay the pecking order, citing differences in the companies and their direction.
“It depends on the momentum” at the time of purchase, said Mark Vidergauz, managing director of the Sage Group LLC, which brokered the acquisition between Liz and Juicy last year. “Juicy shows no signs of slowing down. But another company may not be ready for such a quick push or may first need internal adjustments. Liz has a formula for exploding brands at their own pace.”
Laundry’s president, Paula Schneider, former president of sales at BCBG Max Azria, replaced Andrew Cohen three years ago. Ira Goldspiel, hired in 2000 as senior vice president of merchandising and marketing, left for Delia’s Inc. a year later. In addition, designer Segal has taken on a consulting role in the last two years. Officials said a team oversees the line, producing items that typically retail from $79 to $450.
The result is a look that’s more youthful, retail consultants said. A few highlights recently at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus include a demure, bouclé coat with a matching, Empire waist sheath, a wine-hued ombré silk dress with crystal-studded spaghetti straps and a flouncy, beaded silk dress in bubble gum pink.
“It’s younger than it used to be and that’s a good thing when it comes to the contemporary woman,” said Sandy Richman, principal at buying office Directives West.
That’s just what Schneider wants to hear.
“Our customer is very current, sexy and girly,” she said. “There’s been an evolution of the line in step with the trends. The androgynous look was big six to seven years ago, where she was partial to a black jacket and slacks. Now it’s about beading and heavy embellishments.”Schneider said she sees “nothing but upside” for the brand, which has had sales of $75 million to $100 million, since its purchase, said a person close to the company.
Retailing and licensing are opportunities for growth. A shoe license was announced in May with Titan Industries of Huntington Beach, Calif., and the bridesmaid line was licensed to dressmaker Bill Levkoff Inc. in Elmsford, N.Y. Unlike Laundry’s current dress selection, the new product will target 300 upscale bridal retail stores, including Renee Strauss in Beverly Hills and Bridals by Lori in Atlanta, and compete against brands such as Watters & Watters, Amsale and Lazaro. Wholesale prices will range from $110 to $145.
“This is a dress line that can outfit a girl’s entire wedding party, catering to all body shapes,” Schneider said, noting bridal gowns may eventually be added to the mix.
The collection, shipping to stores in January, will offer 15 to 20 different styles in satins, chiffons, crepes and organzas, much of it designed to capture a retro glamorous feel. Brooches, ruching and beading are among the embellishment touches.
Deals are in the pipeline for outerwear and swimwear, Schneider said.
On the retail front, Laundry will unveil its newest store in Miami’s Aventura Mall. In contrast to its three minimalist stores in New York and California, the 2,500-square-foot space will embrace a warmer aesthetic with an interior of blush tones, dark hardwoods, antique furnishings and dressing rooms using velvet curtains.
Laundry has created a retail footprint overseas with plans for 15 to 20 stores in the next two years. A shop opened in Kuwait in March and Dubai in September. Next year, two units will bow in Asia and Singapore. Laundry’s international distribution includes Mexico, the United Kingdom at Harrods and Selfridges, Spain and Germany.
Schneider said global sales might represent 30 percent of the business in two to three years, up from 12 percent. “The contemporary world is just hitting other countries and California resources are leading the way,” she said. “It’s an exciting marketplace.”
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