NEW YORK — The better market’s so hot, it’s even caused a longtime veteran of men’s wear to finally give women’s wear another go.
Ron Chereskin — the designer who found a niche in the disco-driven Seventies by creating casual cotton sweaters and playful neckties for men, then turned that concept into a lifestyle brand and men’s main-floor staple that today encompasses 19 licensees with a combined $100 million in wholesale volume — is introducing a wide-scale women’s launch for January deliveries after 28 years in business. It’s not his first women’s product, as a couple of early attempts, like a designer sportswear line and then dresses with Cluett Peabody & Co., failed to take off and were abandoned in 1985.
But he’s back again, this time under a better sportswear license with the European Design Group, which also makes the successful men’s Studio C collection for the designer. For Chereskin, though, it feels like the first time.
“I don’t know why I waited so long,” he said. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”
Putting his distinctive stamp on a women’s collection of sportswear, Ron Chereskin Sport, the designer has come up with a line that relates to his lifelong philosophy of dressing men in comfortable, but not sloppy, clothes. One group of white, black and red separates is inspired by athletic apparel, but not so directly that a black zip-front, yarn-died cotton cardigan would be restricted to the tennis court. It matches back to crisp white blouses and cargo pants with more formal flat, zippered pockets, a modern twist on a cargo trend that Chereskin felt was threatening to spin out of control. He’s also introduced simple multistriped cotton dresses with contrast piping in rustic tones, an Ultrasuede skirt with perforations in the shape of daisies, blouses trimmed with grosgrain ribbons and white cotton blazers that are shrunken like those of most other designers in the contemporary market, but maybe not shrunken by quite as much.
“It’s young, with a bigger fit,” Chereskin said. “I didn’t look at the traditional better sportswear lines because I didn’t want to come out with another line of Fair Isle and argyle sweaters. I took a very young approach for this market; it’s slightly active influenced. I mixed a lot of fabrics, and it’s fresh.”While his brand has been around for some time, Chereskin doesn’t come with a lot of baggage in the women’s market, as he pointed out. He operates his company as a marketing and design studio, with all production being handled by licensees, such as another new venture launching this year for a home collection made by Britannica Home Fashions. One of his strengths that translates across several categories is in developing his own fabrics with a team of six designers, which he feels will also help distinguish the Ron Chereskin Sport collection in the crowd of players that are lining up to tackle the better market this spring, from Tommy Hilfiger’s H line to Calvin Klein’s new line with Kellwood. Chereskin’s line is priced to retail from $54 to $200, with a first-year wholesale projection of $4 million to $5 million.
“I know it’s a tough market, but I don’t care,” he said. “It’s the best time to introduce new things, because department stores are having a lot of problems since there was too much dependence on three or four designers in that market.”
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