Among Bryan Bradley’s inspirations for his new, lower-priced namesake collection is a black and white photograph of an Adele Simpson storefront. In the Thirties, Simpson was best known for creating the kinds of clothes that were better-priced and more realistic to the lives of American women than those of some European couture houses — and that’s just how he would like to position Bryan Bradley.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It’s this kind of thing you would get for a great price, but now you can’t,” Bradley said.
Sitting in his Chrystie Street studio, the designer seeks to reassure that the new line, which launches at Coterie, isn’t some watered-down version of Tuleh.
“It’s not aspirational in a sense of ‘I can’t afford Tuleh and so I will get the other line,’” Bradley said. “This is its own thing. It’s not meant to be a junior Tuleh or a diffusion Tuleh.”
However, those who expected Bradley to resort to T-shirts and jeans for the Bryan Bradley label will be in for a surprise. The collection runs the full gamut, from summer dresses to elegant tailored coats, skirts and knits. Just like Tuleh, there is an abundance of colorful prints and romantic details.
Marco Cattoretti, president of Tuleh, added that there is a conscious effort not to refer to Bryan Bradley as a “second” or a “contemporary” line. “If we call Tuleh high couture, this is low couture,” he said. “A woman may be panicking, because she has to go on a date or a party, or go out on a Saturday night. She doesn’t want to spend $1,500 on a dress. She would spend $395, but doesn’t want to look like it.”
The collection is priced 60 to 70 percent below Tuleh. A dress, for instance, can retail for $375 with a matching coat for $395. A ruffled blouse is priced at $168 retail. Wholesale price points range from $68 to $195.
The thought of a lesser-priced line had been on Bradley’s radar for quite some time. Two years ago, he designed a lower-priced Bryan by Bryan Bradley collection for Lord & Taylor, though that relationship ended last year.
Bryan Bradley will have three deliveries a season, with 30 to 35 looks each. The line will be previewed with private showroom appointments, in time for a June delivery.
The target is to reach specialty stores and “very handpicked” department stores, according to David Shelsky, Tuleh’s chief executive officer. Shelsky plans to reach 300 doors in the first year, and the company projects $5 million in wholesale sales for the first season.
Bradley clearly seems to enjoy the process of manufacturing overseas, and at various points during the interview, expressed his astonishment at how precisely Chinese factories can realize his ideas, not just for prints but also textures like tweeds and cloque.
Last year, Bradley and Cattoretti sold a 49 percent stake in Tuleh to private equity firm Trilea Partners and Shelsky, and the company is now planning to expand Bradley’s repertoire. Tuleh is delving into the home category, first launching a rug collection with Roubini Rugs, which will also make tabletop and gift boxes for them. Bradley will unveil the rugs at the Tuleh show, which will be held at the Roubini showroom at 200 Lexington Avenue on Feb. 15.
“We try to take a multi-tiered approach in the company,” Shelsky said. “Our goal is to be in ready-to-wear, in retail, in wholesale, and expand our brand.”
That, he added, will include the opening of five in-store shops for the Bryan Bradley brand in China in August, and a freestanding Bryan Bradley store in downtown Manhattan, planned for September.
“New York will be more of a concept store,” Shelsky said. “With the real estate market the way it is, it gives us a great opportunity to test a concept at retail. We don’t want to compete with our retailers…the goal is to open up downtown to get a clearer understanding of what works, and what doesn’t work.”
According to Bradley, there shouldn’t be too much consumer crossover between his new line and Tuleh.
“I don’t know this mythical woman who buys high and low,” Bradley said. “There is certainly no woman I know who does that.
“Some savvy customer may buy both, but I am not promoting it,” he added. “That is not my intent.”