By  on November 1, 2007

CHICAGO — Nanette Lepore, known for her whimsical and feminine contemporary fashions, is unveiling an elegant, luxurious look — for her brand logo, that is.

As part of an overall rebranding strategy, Lepore will introduce a more sophisticated logo in colors of black and ballet pink to appear on garment tags, hangtags, shopping bags and new store signage. It coincides with the launch of her first Chicago boutique today.

Gone are the roses flanking her name and the illustration of a dark-haired girl on the hangtag, They are replaced by a more regal floral motif framing her name and the lower-case initial "n,'' designed to appeal to the line's core target demographic, women ages 25 to 35.

"It was just time for a new feel and a new look," Lepore said. "I grew tired of the old look. The line is growing up a little bit."

A version of the logo also may be used as a pattern appearing on everything from boutique wallpaper to handbag linings.

Lepore, who worked with Richard Christiansen, creative director of Chandelier, a New York-based branding and advertising firm, to develop the logo, sought an evolution that would not alienate her customers.

"I wanted to keep it feminine and pretty and not move it too far away from what it was," she said.

Noting that Lepore's initial logo and graphic identity skewed "a little young," Christiansen said: "Her brand has matured. There was a little-girl kind of aesthetic, which I don't think is there anymore. [The new logo] felt a lot more elevated and sophisticated."

The rebranding comes at a key time because Lepore is extending her retail presence.

Along with the 2,015-square-foot store in Chicago, the designer wants to launch similarly sized locations. A unit with its own shoe parlor is set to launch in January in Chevy Chase, Md.; a second Los Angeles store, on Melrose Avenue with a parking lot and VIP shopping space, is slated for February.

Although her existing retail locations in Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London and Tokyo will get new signage and some decor tweaks, the romantic, feminine feel of Lepore's stores will remain constant. The Chicago outpost, for example, fuses both modern and Baroque detailing with its vintage white chandeliers, Lucite shelving, powder pink marble tile floor and fairy-tale mirror.Lepore's store at 423 Broome Street in lower Manhattan, however, needs a facelift, she said. The designer is looking for a second New York location while the first undergoes its transformation and eventually plans to operate both.

And she is considering sites in San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami, as well as Dublin. This activity comes as Lepore is trying to grow the accessories segment of her business and is redesigning her Web site to incorporate the rebranding and add more interactive features this spring.

"I don't want to go too crazy," said Lepore, who noted that sales have increased about 25 percent annually and shoe sales doubled from fall to spring. "I'm concerned about the economy right now."

As one of the first national retailers to open along Chicago's specialty store-dominated Damen Avenue — BCBG is also opening today — with Marc by Marc Jacobs to follow, Lepore plans to present a full range of styles and colors, pulling sweaters from other stores for the Chicago opening.

So far this season there has been a rush for outerwear, including a $495 wool-blend button-down coat, a $695 wool double-breasted coat and a $625 brocade evening coat. It's a trend that Lepore expects to gain momentum in Chicago.

"We're opening under the assumption that Chicago will be one of our stronger stores," said Lepore, who grew up in Ohio.

The line's rebranding will continue through the beginning of next year and likely will be completed in the spring.

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