By  on April 12, 2010

MILAN — Jil Sander wants to build a wider customer base with a lower-price brand extension.

The new collection is called Jil Sander Navy, after its blue tag, and offers a more relaxed, sporty-chic attitude while maintaining brand codes such as design rigor and top quality. Its purpose is twofold, offering existing clients another line to buy as well as an opportunity for Jil Sander fans on a budget.

The collection will launch globally for spring-summer 2011, to hit stores in January. Retailwise, the focus is on the U.S. and Japan.

“This is a strategic first step to grow the Jil Sander business as we aim to reach out to a vaster clientele. Not only does it address market needs, but it will complement the pre-collections and the runway offering,” said Alessandro Cremonesi, chief executive officer of Jil Sander, in an exclusive interview.

Jil Sander Navy is the first major launch under the stewardship of Cremonesi, who succeeded former ceo Gian Giacomo Ferraris in July. The executive was formerly Sander’s chief financial officer.

Cremonesi said Jil Sander Navy, which is priced 40 percent below the signature line, wants to attract a younger customer, not so much agewise, but more in terms of a “dynamic attitude.” Prices are still being finalized, but Jil Sander’s retail prices — starting at $322 for a shirt to between $1,007 and $2,552 for jackets and up to $3,895 for coats — provide a rough guideline.

Cremonesi expects the new line to bump up Jil Sander’s turnover of 100 million euros, or $134 million at current exchange, by 30 percent in one year.

The backbone of the easy-to-wear collection will be unconstructed outerwear such as trenchcoats and blouson jackets, lightweight jersey pieces and laid-back knitwear. T-shirts, shirts, dresses, pants, skirts, jackets and jeans round out the offering, alongside a select number of handbags, footwear and belts. Abstract prints will be a key element, and will be used more often than in the signature line.

“I will continue to open up the Jil Sander brand by pushing its boundaries and introducing new elements to reinforce and widen the attraction to the house,” said creative director Raf Simons.

Manufactured globally, the collection will use a variety of fabrics, including innovative cottons, high-performance techno fabrics, wools and jerseys.

Cremonesi said he chose the U.S. and Japan as focal markets because of their departmentand specialty store-dominated retail scene, adding he will target all 54 stores in the U.S. that carry the signature line. “We will work with our retail partners to secure additional doors and space,” noted Cremonesi.

Moreover, he stressed there are strong signs of recovery in the U.S., where Sander’s sales for fiscal year 2010, which started on Dec. 1, are growing by between 5 to 8 percent and sell-through is “improving significantly.”

The collection also will be carried in existing Jil Sander stores, which will be tweaked to accommodate the larger lineup, and on the brand’s online store. Store openings in strategic markets are in the works, though further details were unavailable.

Since becoming ceo, Cremonesi has carried out a restructuring plan developed with parent company Onward Holdings Co. Ltd. of Japan that was completed in December with an eye on cutting costs, streamlining operations and better integrating the various processes. It also included a 30 percent reduction in the company’s workforce across the board.

“We had to adjust to the market conditions and we are now ready to pursue growth and turn Jil Sander into a modern company,” said Cremonesi.

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