NEW YORK--Onward Kashiyama Co. Ltd. is launching a new international bridge sportswear collection, designed by Michael Kors under the ICB label. The line will be distributed globally to department and specialty stores. Company officials predict first-year wholesale volume of $80 million. Kors's name won't appear on the label, however, and he will continue to head Michael Kors Inc. with his partner, John Orchulli. Kors's signature collection generates $8 million in sales, and there are no plans at this time for Onward Kashiyama to finance his collection, said Kors in an interview Monday. Based in Tokyo, Onward Kashiyama began as a men's wear retailer in 1947 and has expanded into a global powerhouse with sales of $2.3 billion. Its multifaceted business has been built mainly through joint ventures, licensing and distribution agreements for retailing and manufacturing. ICB, which stands for International Concept Brand, represents Onward Kashiyama's first directly owned bridge line for international distribution and is a vehicle for Kashiyama to build a higher profile for itself worldwide. "Michael Kors is part of the whole project, but it's very clear it's not a Michael Kors project," said Pierre Rougier, communications director for Onward Kashiyama. "[Kors] is totally open about it; he's not hiding behind the line. Since no one knows Kashiyama right now, we don't want him taking it over." Onward Kashiyama first approached Kors eight months ago to produce a collection having a "neoclassical look with an edge to it." Kors has a two-year contract with Kashiyama, said Rougier. He declined to say how much Kors is being paid for his designs but noted, "I'm sure it's a comfortable amount." Kors declined to discuss his contract. The first ICB collection, which is item-driven, will be shown to retailers next week for fall/winter selling. It will be sold and distributed in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Hong Kong, China and Japan by Onward Kashiyama and its subsidiaries. About two-thirds of the business will be generated by Japanese retailers and one-third by retailers in the Western Hemisphere, said Rougier. The ICB line will be designed here, produced from Italian, Japanese and French fabrics, cut in Italy and manufactured primarily in Onward Kashiyama's Hong Kong factories as well as other locations throughout Asia. Initially, the company will produce two major collections--fall/winter and spring/summer--with four deliveries each. The company isn't planning a major fashion show to introduce the ICB collection but will host a party to kick off the line at the Police Building at 240 Centre St. here on Wednesday, Feb. 15, for international retailers and press. The line includes both career and casual looks. The color scheme is mostly gray, black, brown and camel with shots of color in the accent pieces. According to Rougier, wholesale prices for jackets will be $170, with dresses at $130, outerwear at $210, skirts at $65, pants at $78 and shirts at $43. Among the key looks are a black cashmere boxy peacoat, a yellow Polartec dress, nubby knits, pinstripe flannel jackets and pants, and sexy matte jersey pleated skirts. Kors told WWD, "A lot of collections are very pigeon-holed--very street, very career, very young. We wanted to find a way to make the clothes not stodgy so the pieces could be worn by an 18-year-old or a 70-year-old." The designer noted that as he's traveled around the world, "I'm seeing less and less difference between the markets." "If the clothes are designed right, it's about how you wear them in each market. What's casual in one city is 'go-to-work' in another market," he continued. In the U.S., ICB will be based at Kashiyama's showroom here at 499 Seventh Ave. Sharyn Feller will direct sales and marketing for Europe and the U.S. To build awareness of the new collection, Kashiyama hired Sam Shahid--who owns his design and ad agency, Shahid & Co., and is also the artistic director of Mirabella--as artistic director. He'll oversee a $2 million print and outdoor ad campaign next fall in the U.S. Shahid will work with ad agency Asatsu/BBDO in developing the campaign. Rougier noted that the launch of a bridge line doesn't mean that Kashiyama is souring on designers. "We're not backing out of designer," he said. "It's really an expansion." In fact, he said, Kashiyama is currently seeking additional space in New York to house designer lines. Onward Kashiyama U.S.A. has distribution agreements for the signature collections of Helmut Lang and Marcel Marongiu, as well as for Times Seven by Todd Oldham, Oldham's secondary line. It also holds the master license in Asia for Jean Paul Gaultier, Paul Smith women's apparel and Dolce & Gabbana. Its retail operations include the Jean Paul Gaultier boutiques in France, Italy and Britain; the Luciano Soprani and Dolce & Gabbana Basic boutiques in Italy, and the Paul Smith boutiques in France and Hong Kong. Among Kashiyama's other retail holdings are the J. Press stores in the U.S.
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