By  on March 16, 1994

NEW YORK -- BCBG, the moniker of designer Max Azria's contemporary sportswear firm stands for "Bon Chic, Bon Genre" -- a French expression meaning good style, good attitude. It could also stand for good business.

Since launching the firm in 1989, the Los Angeles-based company with the French designer has grown to more than 4,100 doors across the country -- including Barneys New York, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue. It generated $16 million in its wholesale business last year with a projected increase of 80 percent for 1994 and in the last two years opened three Los Angeles area retail units.

Now BCBG retail is heading East, with a bilevel 2,000-square-foot boutique to open April 21, at 700 Madison Ave. at 66th Street.

"Retail gives us the opportunity to showcase our collection," said Azria, who owns the company. "It is one more occasion to show the principle buyers of the world our complete product. It shows that we are not only items but a full collection. Retailing is a big risk but it is also a way to make our label a stronger presence in the market."

That presence is slated to grow to include two more California stores by the end of this year and a planned 20 additional units to open across the country over the next five years, according to Kimberly Wheat, director of stores for BCBG.

"Our long-term goal is to have a BCBG store in every major city in the United States," she said.

Although Wheat declined to give retail volume , Nicole Franchuk, director of marketing and communications, said the New York flagship is expected to do $2 million in its first year.

The firm's first Los Angeles store opened in October 1992 at the Brentwood Gardens in Brentwood. The second opened in July 1993 on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and the third opened last October at the Westside Pavilion in Westwood.

Coinciding with the new boutique, BCBG's New York showroom at 1466 Broadway, is expanding from 1,500 square feet to 4,300 square feet in a move from the 15th floor to the 10th floor.

"The stores are great for wholesale sales," said Franchuk. "It gives Max Azria recognition as a designer and BCBG recognition as a collection."The look of the BCBG stores is intended to reflect the design of the clothing -- a combination of European style with a hip American attitude, according to Azria.

The merchandise mix in the new store will be similar to the California units except that accessories will be oriented toward heavier designs with a more extensive line of wool and leather accessories, in such items as hats and scarves.

The BCBG collection itself is coordinated but can be worn separately as items. It features tailored jackets, drawstring pants, skirts in various pleats, jodhpurs, tunics, flowing A-line dresses, baby doll, Empire and fit-and-flare dresses. The new summer line consists of five groups in rayon gauze, a sueded crepe of acetate and Lycra spandex, rayon georgette, linen and a ribbed slinky fabric of acetate and Lycra in a color palette of henna, black, dove gray, stucco, loden and white. Wholesale prices are $22 to $109.

Key looks in the collection include linen bib dresses wholesaling at $46, a rayon gauze tank dress with matching T-shirt for $58 and a sueded crepe pleated skirt priced at $36.

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