MIAMI--For a young company, Blue Ice is very hot. The Miami-based manufacturer, which started shipping its line of dyed-to-match updated misses' separates just over a year ago, hit sales of $3.5 million for 1994 and is projecting $5.5 million for 1995. Owner Robert Knyper describes the firm as a blouse-driven pants company. Blouses are the core of the line, with 40 different styles that are available in 15 colors and five fabrics. They are divided into three groups: basic solids with no trim; lightly trimmed, which includes blouses with cuffs, collars or sleeves in a contrasting fabric, and embroidered blouses. The collection is rounded out with jackets, skirts, shorts and pants. "You have to present a complete collection to a buyer. The idea is that they don't have to run around looking for a pant to match the blouse," said Knyper, stressing that the dyed-to-match program is key to the line's success. "We make it very simple, for both the buyer and for the customer. A customer wants to walk in a store and buy a complete outfit." Knyper sees his customer as 30 and older, a woman looking for better sportswear with a little fashion to it. "She is certainly not contemporary but wants sophisticated updated looks." Knyper pointed to his first Florida-based sales representative, David Cohn, as integral in helping him create the dyed-to-match program and focus on what the customer is seeking with pants and blouses. "The average American woman loves things that go together. She's not Kate Moss walking down a runway," said Cohn. While based in Miami, Blue Ice's operations are international in scope. The line is designed in California, produced in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea and merchandised through apparel markets across the country. Production is done mainly in Hong Kong because the fabrics--which include wool gabardine, sandwashed silk cavalry twill, sandwashed silk piquA, sandwashed silk broadcloth, and sandwashed silk crepe de chine--are purchased there. Even with his Miami base, Knyper never considered Caribbean production using the 807 program. He said it is mainly a quality issue, as well as the fact that the Hong Kong factories have the capability to do the silk sewing and embroidery necessary for the line. "Our expertise is in Asia. We're very familiar with Hong Kong production and it seems to work best for us," he said. Wholesale prices for the line range from $59 to $92 for blouses and $95 to $115 for jackets. Pants are $74. For resort, the company is showing a pastel group, which includes colors like aqua, lilac and pink, as well as brights such a crimson and turquoise. Included are layering pieces such as vests and tanks. The company is currently focusing on specialty store accounts. Knyper would like to expand to department stores but said he is concerned this could jeopardize his relationship with the smaller stores. He said he'd like to create separate programs with department stores, if possible. "We started out walking, now we are cantering and slowly we'll work up to a gallop," he said.
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