By  on September 3, 2009

Richard Chai is finally playing the contemporary game for women. And to hear the designer tell it, the move wasn’t so much a knee-jerk response to the economic downturn — though the timing certainly doesn’t hurt — as the result of other factors. The seed was planted early last year, when the New York-based Chai began working on a limited edition collection for Target. Then, for fall 2008, he launched a men’s lineup, priced in the contemporary range, for one simple reason: His older brother, Eddy Chai, is co-owner of the downtown men’s contemporary boutique Odin. The success of the men’s launch — “In Japan, we went from four doors to 30 in one season,” says Richard — prompted him to test the waters in women’s. So for spring 2009, he placed a few lower-priced Richard Chai dresses and tops on the sales floor of the women’s shop, Pas de Deux, also owned by Eddy. “They sold out,” he says. “It was great to get that feedback. I decided this was the time to do it.”

Fast-forward to spring 2010: Chai is moving full-steam ahead with a complete contemporary collection — nearly 40 looks in all. But there’s one thing he’d like to make clear: It’s not “a baby version or dumbed-down version of my main line,” he says. Rather, he identifies the lineup as the female counterpoint to his men’s wear — hence the name Richard Chai – Love. “It’s inspired by my girl, who’s in love with the guy that I dress,” he says of the upbeat moniker. “They’re not carbon copies of each other, but they go hand in hand.”

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