By  on December 26, 2001

NEW YORK -- Color Siete, with just $15 million in retail sales and 26 shops in Central and South America, is not about to storm America, like Benetton or Hennes & Mauritz did.

But the Manizales, Columbia-based fashion chain does have some American allies to help get a U.S. expansion off the ground. Among them is Philip Miller, the former Saks Fifth Avenue chairman and chief executive officer and currently a consultant, and the NoHo-based branding firm Graj + Gustavsen.

"Color Siete is a great concept, but what it needs is a very focused and interesting merchandise vision for this market and hopefully an international market," said Miller. "We need to find manufacturing or retail partners to take the concept to the next level and introduce it to more consumers."

"The goal is to bring the modern Latin lifestyle to an international market," said Luis Felipe Molina, president and founder of the privately held Color Siete chain, which has been operating since 1989. "First, we have to evolve to improve the image and create a new identity. Beyond that, we want to create a concept that will endure, borne from an authentic Latin heritage -- not trendy or of the moment. It will be more refined."

Color Siete has been selling a casual Banana Republic/Kenneth Cole look for some time, but realizes there's just too much of that in the States. So in March, Color Siete NA was created, and another design team formed to refine the look and launch stores in the States, either freestanding or shop-in-shops. Wholesaling is also under consideration. The firm hopes to make its U.S. debut by fall 2002, probably with a freestanding store in Florida.

Primarily a men's chain, Color Siete introduced women's merchandise for holiday.

"It's cool, modern and celebrates the sensual," said Steve Sicular, a Graj + Gustavsen project manager, describing the women's line.

He said the line has weekend, active, work and after-hour clothes geared for 22- to 36 year-olds and with "an upscale appeal at a value-price point."

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