Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK--Seeger, the ultra-exclusive German leather goods firm that has heretofore only dabbled in women's items, has broadened its assortment to include its first full collection specifically designed for women.
The 107-year-old company, which is owned by Montblanc and is part of the VendOme Luxury Group, has long offered unisex items in its 150-piece collection, but it wasn't until last month that the company launched County, its first full women's line.
Women now account for roughly 30 percent of Seeger's sales, according to Stanislas de Quercize, president of Seeger and Montblanc North America. The VendOme Group does not break out volume for its divisions. However, industry sources estimate Seeger's annual volume to be roughly $15 million.
"We have a long history of responding to our customers' needs," said de Quercize. "Not only have women become increasingly powerful in the corporate world and interested in the trappings that go along with those positions, but they are generally much more open about expressing what they want in terms of color and specific function."
Seeger's first attempt at offering a women's line earlier this year was cheered by its female customers, but also resulted in demands to go further.
That line--Flame--basically took established styles in the company's signature black napa lambskin and added a red lining. De Quercize said a different color will be added each year. The 23 styles include briefcases, portfolios, totes, backpacks, small leather goods and travel items such as jewelry rolls and a vanity case.
"They wanted specific designs, more functions and a line for weekends," de Quercize said. That resulted in the County weekend collection.
The 18-piece County line utilizes a soft brown nubuck with silk linings and bronze hardware in more casual styles than the signature or Flame collections, and includes backpacks, slings, totes, cosmetic cases and small leather goods. The retail price range is roughly the same as the other lines, from $85 to $1,715. A sling style, priced at $570, emerged as a best-selling silhouette in the first week, de Quercize said.
In the past, Seeger has added new products to its mix only once every year or two, but de Quercize said the company is picking up the pace and will add new items every quarter. Other recent additions are belts. Several handbags in traditional silhouettes in the company's signature leather will debut for the Christmas season.
Seeger is also expanding its retail presence in the U.S. Its first freestanding store here opened at 400 Madison Ave. in November, and a boutique will open in the South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, Calif., next March. De Quercize said five stores will be added in 1997, although he declined to specify their locations.
Seeger is also sold at Stanley Korshak in Dallas and Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills and San Francisco.

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