By  on October 1, 2008

Andrew Grossman has a plan for launching a brand in a down market.

As witnessed with Asara, which Grossman introduced under China-based High Fashion Group, the formula is this: First let the product prove itself in a soft launch at specialty doors without marketing support. Then enter the secondary doors of department stores and invest in marketing to support the retail partners. After the product proves itself in those less desirable doors, move into the top department store doors — all within a two- to three-year time frame.

Soft-launching in spring 2008, Asara sold in about 100 specialty doors that already carried August Silk, High Fashion’s most known label, and it performed “extremely well,” according to Grossman, who said first-year volume was in the “low seven digits.”

“We wanted to make sure that, before we invested a lot of money, we got the product right,” Grossman said. “Based on that success, the company decided it was something we have to really invest in to take something that works generically and make it into a brand.”

Grossman enlisted marketing/public relations consultant Linda Gaunt, with whom he had worked at Giorgio Armani. Gaunt, in turn, hired MODCo Creative Inc., which developed a brand logo and marketing campaign for Asara. The logo weaves together versions of the letter “A” to look like a silk moth, and can be used on zippers and to create prints.

The advertising will run for spring in regional issues of magazines, in regional outdoor campaigns, in-store presentations and cooperative mailings. “It has an international feeling — is it British? Is it Chinese?” said Sara Rotman, founder of MODCo Creative. “Competitors at this level are dumbing it down, and this consumer isn’t dumb.”

The marketing plays up the brand’s use of silk, which is found in 80 percent of the line. “Smooth, Silky, Sophisticated” is the brand’s tag line, accentuating the perception of silk as “the original luxury fabric” — and the fabric that China-based High Fashion specializes in.

High Fashion is also looking to organize the silk industry, like cotton or wool has been, with a logo and information hangtag that can be used on all products that include the fiber. Grossman said the company plans to pitch the concept to the Chinese government in about a month.

Grossman said the company will spend nearly 10 percent of its sales on marketing, largely to support the retailers.

The plan for spring is to expand into secondary doors of department stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s on a regional basis. Grossman projects 2009 volume will reach $10 million. He declined to predict 2009 door counts, but said that within two years, he hopes the brand will prove itself worthy of being in retailers’ primary doors.

“We’re looking to catapult into regional doors, not necessarily nationally with what’s going on in the economy,” Grossman said. “By aggressively going after where they need bulking up and by proving that we can do that, we can move into their top doors.”

The line wholesales from $24 to $69. Asara’s target customer is 35 or older, and “has worn fashion in the past, but it’s less important to her in terms of the percent of her income she spends nowadays,” said Grossman.

“That is the price point that is needed to do well today,” he said. “People are shopping price. The right product at the wrong price is wasted creativity. We’re trying to bring something to market that is not only aspirational from a product point of view but also attainable for customers who are hurting. If she used to spend $200 on a jacket, now she is spending $80.”

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