By  on October 11, 2007

Natalia Konovalova is thinking outside the bag.

The designer of the four-year-old contemporary handbag line Bulga has created a collection of denim jeans, launching for spring retailing. Konovalova, a native of Uzbekistan, is trained in tailoring, so she said it was natural for her to get into apparel.

"With handbags, they are all pretty much the same, but there are endless ways to make a bag — adding pockets, new zippers, different colors — I feel it's the same sort of thing with denim," she said. "There is so much denim out there, but endless ways to design [jeans]."

The Bulga denim line, which wholesales between $96 and $124, consists of an array of styles and washes from the signature skinny jeans to the vintage-washed trouser style with low back pockets and grommet details on the pockets. There is also a casual cotton trouser with the Bulga logo embroidered on the back pockets. Konovalova said her choice in denim fabrics was important because she wanted the denim to have a very soft feel, similar to the leather she uses on her handbags.

"No one likes to get into a stiff pair of jeans, so I was careful with making sure the jeans were soft," she said. "You just want to feel these jeans."

Konovalova said she is targeting the collection to high-end specialty retailers. Many of the 300 stores that carry her handbag line have been asking for a denim line, she said.

"If I was going to create a line of jeans, they had to be something special," she said. "People have such a large choice when it comes to jeans, they are already exposed to so much. But I believe I have really created something different, something they can't find anywhere else."

Konovalova said she expects to reach about $1 million in first-year sales.

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