By  on March 11, 2008

After 145 years in business, Pendleton Woolen Mills wants to attract customers with updated looks for its classic styles.

"We're expanding our lifestyle brand to reach women ages 40 and over with two new designers who know and appreciate the Pendleton heritage and product as our demographic evolves," said Pat A. Fowler, women's wear division manager at the Portland, Ore.-based business.

Cynthia Holcomb Rosendahl, design and merchandise director, and Linda Whitney, designer and merchandiser, joined Pendleton in September with the goal of interpreting contemporary and updated fashion trends to harmonize with Pendleton's traditional style. Holcomb Rosendahl had consulted for Nordstrom and Whitney was a designer at Rocky Mountain Apparel Co.

Pendleton, a private family business, long ago forged its niche with its woolen plaids and prairie-inspired apparel such as Native American-style blanket jackets, suede skirts and colorful prints.

Women's apparel generates about 65 percent of Pendleton's volume, followed by men's with 20 percent and home with 15 percent.

"Our consumers' bodies and fashion mentality are not the same as their mothers'," Fowler said of the brand, which previously targeted the 50 and older age group. "They want the Pendleton classic style but with subtly sophisticated and more urban-inspired styles. The changes in our fashion focus started in a small way for fall 2007 and will continue to get stronger with each collection."

Pendleton's catalogues and Web site reflect the updated approach.

Fall 2008 trends include gray sheath dresses at $138, white cropped jackets at $138, navy sateen pants at $78, long ruffled blue paisley skirts at $128, silk suits in various colors and price points and lots of nautical and plaid trend stories.

There are gray glen plaid jackets at $228 and matching tailored pants at $148, which can be worn with related contemporary paisley scarves and skirts or colorful V-neck pullover tops at $84.

"With our beautiful wool and rich past, we have the ability to create 'new classics' or reinvent timeless pieces," Whitney said.

As a seventh-generation Oregonian, Holcomb Rosendahl has a personal connection to the Pendleton brand, which has long been a part of her own wardrobe."We are adding new dimension to our product through quality details, new exclusive Pendleton stretch fabrications and luxury finishes," said Holcomb Rosendahl. "Our fit is evolving to a fresh, figure-flattering misses' shape that mirrors how today's Baby Boomer wants to look and feel....We have increased casual, lifestyle offerings while reducing dress-up looks."

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