By and  on November 5, 2007

NEW YORK — John Wilson, a 24-year veteran who cut his teeth at Vestimenta, Ferragamo and Nordstrom, is putting the finishing touches on a new retail concept.

Deegie's Carma, an 18,000-square-foot specialty store for 18- to 28-year-old women and men, will make its debut for spring at The Legends at Village West, a 1.2-million-square-foot, open-air lifestyle center in Kansas City, Kan.

The store, which will include a salon and a lounge, is designed to become a hangout destination for customers seeking an alternative to the cramped, mall-based retailers currently targeting this demographic. Deegie's Carma will boast a curvilinear store design by the renowned Gensler architectural firm, along with attention-grabbing graphics and an eclectic mix of indie labels and cool brands in a variety of categories.

Wilson's partners in the venture are Carmela Spinelli, former associate chair of the department of fashion design at Parsons The New School of Design, who is serving as Deegie's chief creative officer, and David Hulshof, an investment banker, strategic growth and financial management executive, who is chief financial officer. The trio, who operate under the name Three Wildcats LLC, are being bankrolled by RED Development LLC — owner of The Legends center — and a deep-pocketed anonymous family who have committed $12 million to $15 million to open the company's first three stores, according to Wilson.

"This concept has been in development for over two years now," he said. Wilson, whose most recent position was as a director of Net Worth Solutions Inc., where he focused on mergers and acquisitions in the men's and luxury markets, said he sees "an absolute void" in the teen market and a marked "absence of new soft-goods concepts.

"We've shopped malls and lifestyle centers — they're all the same. There's no point of differentiation."

He added most retail stores targeting the young customer are "all about T-shirts, boardshorts and denim. But we're going to provide a much more true fashion aesthetic."

The apparel mix is also far-reaching and will include Chili Peppers, French Connection, WeSC, Original Penguin and Betsey Johnson.

Because of Spinelli's experience at Parsons, the store is also expected to be an "incubator for up-and-coming design talent. There's a real opportunity for that here," she said.

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