NEW YORK -- Lynn Manulis has taken another designer under her wing.
Manulis, the daughter of Martha boutique founder Martha Phillips, has formed a partnership with Andre Van Pier, a designer known mainly for his celebrity clients and the red sequined gown worn by Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie" but not widely distributed. Manulis claims responsibility for advancing the careers of numerous young talents, from Todd Oldham to Josie Natori, whom she featured in her Martha International boutique. The boutique, which opened in 1989, was closed along with the Martha flagship on Park Avenue and a unit in Bal Harbour, Fla., after the company declared bankruptcy in 1992.
At the last remaining Martha store, on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Fla., Manulis is giving more than half of the shop's 5,000 square feet to Van Pier. On Saturday, Van Pier opened a 2,000-square-foot boutique in Martha's to house his couture collection, ready-to-wear, sportswear, swimwear, shoes and accessories. The boutique, which has a separate street entrance, has done $150,000 in sales since opening.
In addition, Manulis will open a 600-square-foot bridal salon for him at Martha's on Jan. 25, and a 550-square-foot area for his natural cosmetics, bath and body products. The bath and body shop is an outgrowth of a line called Body Beautiful that Van Pier sold through direct mail. According to a spokesman, Body Beautiful did $900,000 in sales this year.
"I won't be dropping any designers because we have the space," Manulis said. "I'm giving Andre a fair amount of space because I believe he's worthy of it."
Van Pier and Manulis plan to open freestanding boutiques across the country. The shops, which will be called Exclusives, may incorporate the names Martha Phillips, Lynn Manulis and Andre Van Pier on merchandise. Manulis explained that the name Martha can no longer be used because it was sold to Triomphe Fourrures, a division of the Paris-based House of Revillon, for $60,000.
The Exclusives boutiques will feature a collection designed by Van Pier priced at less than $1,500. The units will average 1,500 square feet.
"We are looking for a site in south Florida, maybe at the Aventura Mall in North Miami," said a spokesman for Van Pier. "We expect to open in the summer or fall of 1995."The Exclusives concept will be tested at Martha's in the spring.
Van Pier, who has been designing for 10 years, specializes in show-stopping styles like $1 million diamond-encrusted bustiers and $100,000 evening dresses spun out of 24-karat gold and platinum.
A spokesman said Van Pier will have sales of $4.5 million this year.
Van Pier, 30, said he is looking forward to designing classic sportswear for the Exclusives boutiques. It's not that the splashy designs haven't served him well. He recalled getting an order from Doris Duke for three gold-spun scarves, which sold for $5,500 each. "She wanted one for herself, one for her maid and one for Imelda Marcos," Van Pier said.
"I was the first to bring Valentino over to this country," she said. "Let's hope we have another success like that. I cut my teeth on this kind of people. We're just beginning again."
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