LOUIS FERAUD TARGETS A YOUNGER SHOPPER FOR FALL

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK--Louis Feraud is heading into fall with a new special-occasion collection it hopes will reel in a younger consumer.
The 33-piece collection, called Expressions by Louis Feraud, offers dresses, suits, pantsuits and eveningwear. Wholesale prices range from $215 for a wool bouclA skirt to $1,355 for a four-ply silk dress and jacket. Projected volume for the line is $2.5 million, according to Gloria Gelfand, president of the U.S. subsidiary of the Paris fashion house.
The company polled salespeople about what was lacking in their stores, before the line was designed, she said. The survey revealed that a variety of sophisticated dresses was needed, from cocktail dresses, afternoon-into-evening dresses and daytime dresses. As a result, 65 percent of the line consists of dresses with jackets or coats.
"Young people don't buy dresses. The daytime dress doesn't exist," Gelfand said. "We want to get the 30-year-old or the 35-year-old now so we have her five years from now.
"I understand that when a designer customer walks in the door of a store, she doesn't need clothes. She needs closets," she said. "If she wants something new, it has to be different and it has to be gorgeous."
Many styles are shown in the New Length, covering the knee, but most stores are asking that dresses and skirts be shipped at 23 inches, just above the knee, she said.
Fred McCann, owner of Esther Wolf, a 15,000-square-foot boutique in Houston, pointed to a persimmon multicolored wool bouclA suit retailing for $939 and a pink wool bouclA dress with coup de velour trim and matching embroidered jacket at $1,199, as a few of the line's standouts.
"It has a tremendous couture look," he said. "They're clothes a woman could wear today. They're not too far out."
A special event will be planned in August to launch Expressions at Esther Wolf, he said.
"I spent more than I expected to. But I know I can sell it," McCann said. "Most pieces are priced under $2,000 at retail."
Mary Jane Denzer, who owns and operates the 7,500-square-foot store in White Plains that bears her name, described Expressions as "very wearable pieces for real people."
"It's for a young customer with wonderful taste who is not ready to buy couture," she said. "The collection has a lot of style."
Denzer said she primarily ordered higher-priced eveningwear items in the line such as wool stretch body dresses that are easy to wear for different occasions. One retailer, who asked not to be named, described the line as salable, couture-type merchandise.
"It's very French. It looks like the old-time couture there used to be 30 years ago," he said. "It's not bare things or weird things."
Expressions is designed for young bodies--not for larger figures, he added.
"There's a need for this type of line in this type of price range," he said. "It's nice to see somebody new out there when so many other people are going out of business."

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