By  on August 24, 2005

NEW YORK — Now the kids can be Marc Jacobs aficionados, too.

The designer said he never imagined his group of friends as parents. But in recent months, Jacobs and business partner Robert Duffy found there were so many babies in their immediate circle that they, too, caught the baby bug. After several inquiries by friends to make some of Jacobs' signature looks in children's sizes, the pair decided to launch Little Marc, a collection made exclusively for Marc fans aged two to seven.

Little Marc is based around the waffle-weave thermal cashmere underwear that has become a staple in the designer's men's and women's collections. It consists of a hooded top, a cardigan, a crewneck top and long johns, all manufactured in Italy and available in pink, blue, gray and white. There are three sizes: S for ages two to three, M for four to five and L for six to seven.

"The thermals were the right thing to do because they are so much a part of our vocabulary and are easily adaptable," Jacobs said. "It's taking something luxe and offering it in the traditional shapes and colors for young people, and very young people."

Jacobs said this line came about organically, and that he has no immediate intention to turn it into a full, stand-alone collection with different product classifications. He acknowledged that the concept offers a wide range of expansion opportunities, but said that, for the moment, the plan is to create pieces here and there that tickle his fancy.

"Should it naturally evolve, we will prepare ourselves and we will do what it takes to be organized about it, but at the moment, it's just a whim," Jacobs said. "I think it will be a few pieces until the next whim strikes ... Maybe eventually we can do our mouse shoes for kids."

For the time being, Jacobs offers matching dog sweaters, which are priced from $150 for XS to $175 for M and L.

Jacobs said he has become more conscious of babies since many of his friends and colleagues became parents in the last year. Two weeks ago, his public relations director, Kate Waters, gave birth to Ingrid; a couple of months back, his friend, Rachel Feinstein, had a boy named Hollis, and photographer Juergen Teller, who shoots the designer's ad campaigns, became the father of a son, Ed, earlier this year."In a funny way, I never expected to be someone whose contemporaries were moms and dads," Jacobs said. "I don't know why. That just seems like something my parents did, but not anybody I knew would do, have a family. Now that it is a reality, it's something in our consciousness."

Jacobs said the name Little Marc came to him on a lark, like the line. "It just seemed so obvious," he said. "I like these silly banal play on words and double entendres. I find them very sweet."

The collection is launching this week in the Marc Jacobs boutiques in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and Bal Harbour, Fla. The hooded top retails for $395; the cardigan, for $325; the crewneck top, for $295, and a pair of long johns, for $195. That's a steep price for the children's wear market, but Jacobs is confident that there are parents willing to spend so much on their children.

"There is a customer for everything," the designer said. "It may not be a mass customer, but that's not what we are trying to say with it. It's something very special and very particular and I think it would appeal more to urban sensibilities."

Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, declined to give sales projections for the line and explained that it was a smaller launch, with "a few hundred units per style."

However, based on the customer reaction, Duffy said this could eventually turn into a significant business, which could even be licensed.

"For me, these things are a natural progression," Duffy said. "I'd much rather do something first, get my feet wet, learn about the parts of the business, learn about the manufacturing of it, and then you can sit down with any licensee, with a knowledge and background of the business."

Duffy added that there are many categories he and Jacobs are exploring. They are still working on a concept for a less expensive ready-to-wear line, and Duffy would like to build men's and women's underwear, now made in-house for Marc Jacobs boutiques, into a licensing deal with larger volume potential."There are so many things we'd like to do," Duffy said, "We are just beginning."

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