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Richard Chai Men’s Line

Richard Chai is in expansion mode, stepping on the business accelerator since finding backers in South Korean marketing company SK Networks Co. Ltd. last year.

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Richard Chai is in expansion mode.

This story first appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer has been stepping on the business accelerator since finding backers in South Korean marketing company SK Networks Co. Ltd. last year. Chai has added resort and pre-fall deliveries, and now hopes for additional growth with men’s wear and his first freestanding retail unit. There is also speculation that he is designing a limited edition collection for Target.

“A lot of people are doing accessories, but I wanted to start with men’s wear because there is a huge void in that market,” Chai said of the men’s line, which features a mix of sleek wovens and knits with the same kind of architectural details that inform his women’s wear. “It’s things I want to wear and my friends want to wear.”

Chai plans to sell the pieces alongside his women’s wear in his first freestanding store, which he hopes to open for fall. However, he still has to find a location in Manhattan. “I have been looking at Madison Avenue, and downtown in the far West Village,” he said.

With all these new initiatives, Chai recently retained Baron & Baron to work on marketing and branding his label. It resulted in a sleek brand book about the designer, with the text supplied by Glenn O’Brien, who was just named co-editorial director with Fabien Baron of Interview magazine.

“It was important to me, as my company is growing, to have a bible about what my brand stands for,” Chai said. “As we start to develop retail stores and work with architects, it will offer a consistency.

“It will also be useful as we expand and look at other categories, including licenses for fragrance or shoes,” he added.

Chai brought in Robert Burke Associates to help with merchandising and developing his wholesale business, which includes stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

After his fall runway show, Chai plans to relocate to a 9,000-square-foot office on Grand Street that will feature a design studio and atelier, a showroom, a sales office and a finance department. “It will be the whole Richard Chai world,” he said.

Although a gig as consulting creative director for Onward Kashiyama’s contemporary line Nave ended last year, Chai’s design touch may be found elsewhere next year should he become the next guest designer for Target’s Go International initiative. Chai declined to comment.

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