By  on April 15, 2008

The design team Hanii Yoon and Gene Kei are taking their company in a new direction and are eliminating their Y & Kei designer line in the process.

The plan is to build up the duo's contemporary label Hanii Y in the U.S. and abroad, and introduce the Obzee label to the domestic market. SK Networks, a $20 billion Seoul-based global marketing company, is handling these new initiatives.

In December, SK Networks unveiled a $60 million, five-year investment plan to bolster marketing and merchandising for the Y & Kei and Hanii Y labels, which were started by the husband-and-wife design team. At that time, the brands were said to generate $100 million in sales and $10 million in profits annually. The designers, who retained their titles as creative directors, are relocating from Seoul to Manhattan, where SK Networks is seeking a design center to focus on broadening the pair's global marketing efforts.

The new strategy is reflective of the changing retail scene, according to Robert Burke, whose namesake company has been pitching in with the development and merchandising of Yoon's and Kei's designs. He said the designers are merely leveraging the "recent global success of their Hanii Y business," Burke said. "We have seen enormous growth in recent seasons within the upper contemporary-opening designer division of the market."

Launched in 2005, Hanii Y is sold in more than 320 doors worldwide. Within the next five years, the company aims to open 35 freestanding stores in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Seoul, Paris, London, Milan and Dubai.

The brand will be shown during fall's New York Fashion Week. Revving up public relations efforts is another initiative in the works. One aim is to build its popularity with celebrities such as Rachel Bilson and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who have been photographed recently wearing the label.

On another front, there are plans to start selling Obzee, a $50 million overseas business, in the U.S. Until recently, the sportswear was only available in South Korea, but is now sold in 10 luxury department store doors across China. By the end of this year, the company expects to have distribution in 20 additional doors.SK Networks is the exclusive distributor of Donna Karan, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger in South Korea. The company also sells its private label brands throughout China and has a minority stake in Richard Chai's business.

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