By  on July 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES — St. John sees a sweet spot in jewelry.

The fashion brand is seeking to grow its business with a new jewelry division and has named Neville Ward as design director. The first pieces will launch for spring, with a larger collection to follow for pre-fall and fall 2011.

“This is something we’ve been contemplating for a long time,” said Glenn McMahon, chief executive officer. “We know our customer loves jewelry. It’s just a natural extension of our brand and it’s a great way to appeal to our core and attract new customers to the brand.”

Prices will range from $300 to $1,000. The category is primarily costume jewelry, but the collection will include some semiprecious stones for fall 2011.

St. John has dabbled in costume jewelry, creating accessories based on buttons and hardware from the apparel line. George Sharp, executive vice president of design and creative director, has also produced pieces for the label’s runway shows and ad campaigns, which have sold only in St. John boutiques. The latest initiative marks the first time the company is approaching jewelry as a separate division that will sell to retail partners worldwide.

“The timing is right, and as we look down the road, the nonapparel categories are a huge opportunity for us. If we want to be serious, this needs to be a stand-alone proposition,” said McMahon, adding there will be a separate sales staff hired for the division. “We will look at whatever needs we have, and we will make that investment.”

Ward was design director at Lee Angel before joining St. John last week and has designed jewelry for Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, J. Crew, Anthropologie and Neiman Marcus.

“This is the first time the line will be in-house and closer to heart,” said Ward, who will report to Sharp. “The work is in process for a few spring pieces, which were inspired by my archive, which I adapted with George. We are slowly building a library of interesting materials, and these first few pieces will give a sense of where we are going, a little stepping stone to pre-fall. “The wrist will be a focal point for fall.”

Ward plans to mix materials such as pearl, horn, resin and metal. “That’s how you keep it interesting and young,” he said. “I’m always asking how I can take old styles and create them with newness.”

Part of Ward’s mission will be to create iconic clasps and closures to make the pieces recognizable to buyers. The collection will be sold on the jewelry floors of department stores rather than with clothing. “I want the jewelry to relate to the clothing but it doesn’t go back to specific items,” McMahon said.

Although McMahon said the licensing model for shoes, bags and small leather goods works best for the company, “the jewelry happens to be something we know we can do in-house. Neville knows sourcing, supplying and manufacturing, and his sensibility is dead-on with where we are going.”

The pieces will be featured in St. John’s ready-to-wear ad campaigns and on its Web site. McMahon declined to give first-year sales projections but said, “This is a significant opportunity for additive growth volume, and ultimately, it could easily be a $10 million business.”

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