By  on April 23, 2007

SYDNEY — British-born model-turned-designer Gail Elliott will open her latest Little Joe by Gail Elliott boutique in the central business district here next month in The Strand, a picturesque, Victorian-era shopping arcade.

The 525-square-foot store is Elliott's third. The brand has an 18-month-old shop of the same size in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra and a 750-square-foot store in South Yarra, Melbourne, that opened last July. With a Brisbane outlet set to open by August and another store planned here by year's end, industry sources estimate that Elliott might grow her volume by 50 percent, to about $5.5 million, over the next year. All figures have been converted from the Australian dollar at the current exchange rate.

The five-year sales projection is $8.4 million to $16.8 million, Elliott said. This includes another six stores for Australia and two to three units in the U.S. The first U.S. store will probably not open for two years, and Los Angeles is the likely target.

"If something happens in New York before then, we might do New York, as well," said Elliott who named her three-year-old brand after her Australian husband and business partner, Joe Coffey. "New York will definitely happen because it's still where I live and where I've spent so much time — 24 years."

The line is also sold in 80 doors other than the signature stores, and wholesaling accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of the business, she said. Key accounts are Henri Bendel, Harvey Nichols, Browns, Intermix and Net-a-Porter. The brand is also launching e-commerce at the littlejoeny.com.

The new Strand boutique will, like the other stores, feature an all-white decor with mirrored cabinets, nickel railings and lime-washed floorboards. Assortments will include sueded silk camisoles, peasant dresses and silk knickers by Little Joe for Gail Elliott retailing at about $40 to $59. The products are exclusive to Elliott's boutiques, along with knitwear of linen and cotton blends merchandised with select international brands ranging from April-May cotton camisoles to T-shirts by Flux Nouveau, LA Made and Park Vogel; knitwear by Inhabit, and jeans by J Brand, Freedom of Choice, Hysteric Glamour and Frankie B.

There are belts by Hollywood Trading Co., Eva Herzigova swimwear and Carolina Barbieri and Manon von Gerkan jewelry. Prices range from $30 for a Wilson key ring to around $1,500 to $1,675 for a Kooba or Botkier handbag.The Little Joe by Gail Elliott brand has hit a sweet spot with Australian consumers that sits between the multibrand import boutiques and the high street.

Elliot was a high-profile model in the Eighties; she continues to model for companies such as Eddie Bauer and Playtex. She launched her brand as a luxury loungewear line of six lace and silk ribbon-trimmed sueded silk camisoles, knickers and slipdresses in six colors out of the family town house at Sydney's Tamarama Beach. Elliot soon expanded the line to include ready-to-wear that now accounts for 85 percent to 90 percent of the collection. After dabbling with four scented candles, Elliott is developing a body care range with New York's Slatkin & Co. that is to be launched in early 2008 as a luxury spa concept. Robes and nightdresses will be added as well.

With 40 percent to 50 percent year-to-year growth, Elliott moved the business out of her home to a showroom in Double Bay last May. Elliott and Coffey, who previously spent only three months of the year in Australia, now spend eight months here. The business has 12 employees, including chief executive officer Kylie Cumming.

Elliott said her links to the runway had been helpful in her business.

"The editors all know me and they definitely took all my phone calls and used my clothing to begin with, and realized that the public liked it and continue to use it," she said. "I also had a really good relationship with everyone and we always were very respectful, so it definitely has helped the business."

Little Joe by Gail Elliott is the latest jewel in The Strand's fashion crown. The Strand is Sydney's only surviving Victorian arcade. Opened in 1892, it was named after The Strand in London and features original gas lamps, stained-glass windows, wrought iron and timber balustrades, and red cedar banisters and lift cars.

Singapore's Ipoh Pty Ltd. purchased The Strand in 1999 for $56 million and in 2006 implemented a new leasing strategy to lure back Australian designers. There has since been a flurry of fashion arrivals, including Belinda Seper's The Corner Shop, Alex Perry, Hussy, Sambag, Lisa Ho, Allannah Hill, Leona Edmiston, Jayson Brunsdon, Akira Isogawa, Bowie, Terry Biviano and The Graduate Store, a retail outlet for graduates of East Sydney TAFE's Fashion Design Studio.

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