PLEATS PLEASE PROSPERS FOR MIYAKE

Byline: Koji Hirano, with contributions from Janet Ozzard, New York

TOKYO--The Pleats Please line, introduced a year ago by Japanese designer Issey Miyake, is exceeding its first-year projections, according to a spokesman for the company, with wholesale sales for the year ending next March expected to reach about $20 million (2 billion yen).
The line of all-polyester separates, which is sold only in Japan and the U.S., supplements Miyake's signature label, but it is often merchandised separately both here and in U.S. boutiques. Pleats Please's separates are made from a machine-washable fabric that is treated to have permanent tiny pleats. Styles stay the same from season to season and include vests, tank tops, loose pants, coats and dresses. Wholesale prices run from $65 for a shirt to $185 for a coat.
The pieces have neither zippers nor buttons. According to a spokesman, Miyake conceived of the line for women who travel or who have little space in their closets.
According to Terry Howard, divisional merchandise manager for international collections at the California-based retailer I. Magnin, the store's two Pleats Please boutiques are running "in excess of 25 percent ahead of plan," with multiple sales the norm.
Howard said Magnin's has had two Pleats boutiques, in San Francisco and at the Beverly Hills store, since last fall.
"We've found that when we have a qualified sales associate working with a customer, she might go from buying three pieces to buying 12, when she's shown all the different ways it can be worn," said Howard. "When you can tell the customer that this piece is in the Miyake collection for $1,000 and she can buy an entire Pleats outfit for $300 to $500, it's great. We explain that these are pieces taken from the designer collection, but redesigned for mass production. If she is self-conscious about her body, there are pieces that she can wear, like the long cardigan, but because the pleats are vertical, it's very slimming."
She added that Pleats lives up to its easy-care promise.
"You can wad them up in your luggage and when you get to your hotel, they're beautiful. They don't need to be steamed or anything," she said. "I wash mine in the machine in a laundry bag and they come out great."
Howard said that the dark colors are the consistent bestsellers, but that colors have been selling well for spring.
The pieces are offered in eight basic colors such as navy, ivory, white, gray and black, and four extra colors each season, with an occasional print offering. Current spring colors include pink, mint green, gold and blue.
In Japan, Pleats Please sells at six freestanding boutiques, 15 department stores and nine specialty stores.
"The selling shops in the department stores sell $150,000 (15 million yen) a month," said a Miyake spokesman.
The line also has a retail unit at Isetan Co. Ltd., Japan's major department store.
"It has been selling very well," said a spokesman for the store. "Because the product is unique, customers come straight to the shop to buy. Pricing is one of the selling points of the line. However, the design talks. It is the power of the design that activates sales."
In the U.S., the line is also sold at Miyake's Madison Avenue shop and Saks Fifth Avenue.

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