By  on June 18, 2007

NEW YORK — Three years after being acquired by Marc Ecko Enterprises, Avirex is returning to its flight-inspired leather roots with a co-branded line of Ed Hardy leather jackets. The collection, to be launched this holiday season, complements its own Avirex branded leather, which the label is releasing this fall for the first time since Avirex came under the MEE umbrella.

“We put leather on hiatus when we took over the label in order to build out the sportswear side of the business,” said Avirex’s creative director, James Ling. “Now that we’re coming out with authentic leathers again, we wanted to do something fashion-forward and make some noise.”

The limited-edition Ed Hardy collection, called “Ed Hardy for Avirex by Christian Audigier,” will offer about a dozen men’s and women’s styles, including biker jackets, military bombers and varsity jackets. In addition to Ed Hardy’s signature tattoo designs, the high-grade leathers are dotted with features like rhinestones, gold trims and pulls, and colorful embroidered patches.

Unlike Avirex’s moderately priced sportswear, the Ed Hardy leather—as well as the label’s own leather collection—will be priced at $500 to $800, and be sold at better department and specialty stores. “The leather is helping us open new doors with Avirex,” said Ling. In fact, he added, there is little overlap with Avirex’s sportswear accounts, such as J.C. Penney, who carry some of Avirex’s lower-priced, faux-leather outerwear.

Ling also hopes the leather will test the waters with the Avirex consumer to better measure how high price tags can go when the brand opens its own retail stores—a goal that MEE executives have targeted for fall 2008.

Although the holiday line of leathers is the only collaboration between Ed Hardy and Avirex as of now, Ling speculates that, if the line is successful, the two brands could do more business together in the future. “Leather is our bread and butter,” he says of Avirex. “This is just putting our foot in the water before we jump in head first.”

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