By  on May 4, 2007

NEW YORK — After a three-year absence from the U.S., Louis Féraud is back with a 1,500-square-foot store here and a 1,300-square-foot unit in Los Angeles on the way.

The store at 717 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, near 63rd Street, had a soft opening last week and is expected to do between $2 million and $3 million in annual sales, said Leslie Goodrum, sales director for Féraud in North America.

The unit represents a new retail prototype for the French brand, with red accents — the late designer's favorite color — on walls and furniture. The Fleur de Féraud, a stylized blossom painted by Féraud, is incorporated into the decor and appears on the brand's logo. A skylight bathes the clothes in natural light. Sleek tables display knitwear and one of them serves as a perch for two mannequins on opposite ends.

The Féraud collection has been updated and those who associate Féraud with formal couture and proper suits for the Ladies-Who-Lunch crowd will be surprised to find a fire engine red leather jacket with gold buttons for $1,795 and a red patent leather raincoat for $1,195. The collection, which is designed by Jean-Pierre Marty, has a nautical theme for resort and spring.

"It's youthful and modern," Goodrum said. "This brand is appealing to a customer who never knew Féraud. They don't have that baggage. They love that the brand is not [sold] everywhere, that it's not overexposed."

New products on tap include a women's fragrance that is to launch this year. Handbags and belts will bow next spring.

Marty, who worked at Guy Laroche before joining Féraud, delved into the archives for inspiration.

"He's very much like Mr. Féraud," Goodrum said. "He's a painter and he loves color and fabrics. Féraud was always known for prints. We always have leopard and floral prints in the collection."

Louis Féraud has been through some rocky times, including multiple changes in ownership and a revolving door of designers.

After Féraud died in 1989, his daughter, Kiki, took the design reins. She sold the business to the Dutch apparel group Secon in 1999 and Yvan Mispelaere became the brand's designer. Escada AG took a major stake in Féraud in 2001 and hired Jean-Paul Knott as design director. Bavaria Industriekapital, a German investment fund, bought Féraud in 2003, and Alliance Designers, a luxury group owned by French entrepreneur Alain Duménil, acquired the business in 2005."The changes in ownership hurt the brand," Goodrum said. "The new owner is making a financial commitment to stores."

Féraud, which had worldwide sales of $80 million in 2006, plans to open 14 new stores this year, including units in China, Russia and Dubai.

Goodrum said Féraud would ultimately like to have eight to 10 units in the U.S. "We want to focus on being on the best streets," she explained.

A unit opening at 9534 Brighton Way in Los Angeles at the end of the month will help Féraud make inroads with the red carpet crowd, Goodrum said.

Féraud's shop on West 56th Street in Manhattan, which closed in 2004, "was a little too off the beaten path," Goodrum said. "This Madison Avenue spot is perfect for our customer."

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