By  on August 20, 2007

After launching its namesake active line two months ago, Los Angeles-based manufacturer A4 is expanding again.

The company is introducing for fall Kristiina by A4, a stylized activewear line that includes an organic cotton collection, and A4 Express, a line of popular basic styles that can be replenished within two days, both at A4's more moderate prices targeted to sporting goods stores.

"Our core strength is our vertical manufacturing facility that allows us to be the lowest cost producer," said Mark Mertens, chief executive officer of A4. "If you don't have a unique selling proposition, don't do it. For us on organic cottons, it's about delivering sustainability at prices that are attainable. For our Express line, it's a new way of thinking about how retailers run their business on basics."

The 37-year-old Los Angeles-based activewear vendor did about $35 million in wholesale volume last year. Since it launched its namesake active line A4 in May, business is up 40 percent over the same period in 2006, according to Mertens, who said the A4 line was still on track to do more than $10 million in its first year in wholesale volume. He projects the two collections will bring in another $20 million to $30 million in the first year.

A4 Express will make up about two-thirds of that, Mertens predicts. Offering A4's most popular basic styles — from fleece tops and bottoms to moisture wicking and compression T-shirts and gym bags — in every size and color, the collection is permanently in stock (two million garments are held in the firm's Los Angeles facility) and can be shipped out the same day via FedEx second-day service prepaid to the retailer, and can be ordered online, via fax or phone. The items wholesale from $5 to $17.

The other launch is named after designer Kristiina Ratia, who is now an interior designer, but Mertens met her 26 years ago when she was designing the Finnish children's line Marimekko. The line has three extensions: an organic cotton collection, a "PTL" stretch fleece collection and a more stylized one. The line wholesales from $15 to $25 and will be sold through a4.com and sporting goods retailers.

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