By  on October 19, 2005

BOSTON — Target is trying to polish its image in fast fashion's heady realm, showcasing limited-edition collections from international designers.

The Minneapolis-based discount retailer is launching Go International, which will kick off in February with the young British designer Luella Bartley.

"Our greatest strength is our trend leadership and our ability to anticipate what our guests want next," Target president Gregg Steinhafel said during a presentation to investment analysts in New York on Tuesday.

For holiday, Target will also have a 60-day run of merchandise from the oft-recycled Fiorucci label and a limited-edition gift assortment of luxury apparel. Among the items are a cashmere sweater beaded with Swarovski crystals and a silk scarf. For men, the assortment will include silver cufflinks, cashmere sweaters and $29 silk jacquard ties.

Target did not give details about other designers, or the Bartley, Fiorucci and holiday collections, and did not return calls seeking comment.

Steinhafel told analysts that the planned limited-edition collections would temporarily displace a small amount of Mossimo and private label Xhilaration apparel.

Target is well positioned to "participate in the affordable luxury space," said Jeffrey Klinefelter, retail analyst with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. "With savvy marketing and design, they have created a halo for this brand that allows them to sell a $29 tie and have people perceive it as a great value. This would have been inconceivable 10 years ago, and it's simply an unbelievable accomplishment for a discounter."

The discounter keeps pushing the design envelope in its bid to stay ahead of rival Wal-Mart, which is on a campaign to update its fashion profile. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer this month launched Metro 7, a fashion line aimed at contemporary urban customers, and announced the signing of a celebrity spokesmodel, former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres.

Target's move follows that of Swedish fast-fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz, which this year sold out a limited-edition collection by Karl Lagerfeld within hours. This summer, H&M partnered with Elio Fiorucci on a pool loungewear line. The store will have a Stella McCartney exclusive at holiday.

"We believe great design gives Target a sustainable competitive advantage," Michael Francis, executive vice president of marketing and a creative force behind the bull's-eye brand, told the analysts. "Design for all is our declaration of independence."

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