NEW YORK — Harvé Benard is joining the migration to better sportswear with Bern & Mort, a 23-piece collection set to start shipping by early September.

Targeting the category in a straight-up, no-chaser fashion, the line will be sold almost exclusively to specialty stores.

“The only reason the specialty store lives is because they have special things,” Bernard Holtzman, chief executive officer, president and designer, said in an interview at the firm’s showroom at 205 West 39th Street here.

Considered “upper better,” the line is named for Holtzman and his brother and company co-owner, Morton, and is intended to be something the smaller specialty stores can use to differentiate their better offerings from those of their larger department store competitors.

Holtzman described it as the marriage of “a pure maker to a pure seller” without the encumbrances that can impact larger accounts.

This latest entrant into the better market brings “good tailoring, great fabrics and prices within the realm of reality,” noted the Seventh Avenue veteran. “It’s meant to mix and match. It’s meant so you can’t make a mistake.”

Bert & Mort has offerings in wool, cashmere, cotton and knit. Retail prices range from $98 for a silk blend knit V-neck sweater to $390 for a cashmere jacket. Most styles come in a single fabric and one or two colors.

The collection, which carries with it a cosmopolitan feel, would make a woman feel at home in such diverse urban playgrounds as the West Village, TriBeCa or Madison Avenue, said Holtzman.

“There’s a certain quiet luxe to the goods,” he noted.

Aimed at 25- to 45-year-old, higher-income women, Bern & Mort was designed with a sophisticated city sensibility in mind.

Supporting the launch will be a direct mail campaign to stores and retail presentations.

As for revenues the line could create for the roughly $100 million firm, Holtzman portrayed a laisser-faire attitude.

“I don’t care if it doesn’t make money,” said the designer, who noted the business is buttressed by the company’s more established lines. “I have the ability to not have to worry about it because it’s not life-threatening. I’d rather build it slowly and carefully and see if there’s anything I have to address.”Bern & Mort joins the better market at a time of significant upheaval and interest in the category.

The Lauren by Ralph Lauren label recently reverted back to the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. from Jones Apparel Group amid a torrent of legal actions.

Lauren, which will be produced by Polo, is moving quickly to keep the space devoted to it in department stores while the competition heats up with a new better-priced Jones New York Signature line. Calvin Klein, now owned by Phillips-Van Heusen, is also joining the better crowd through a licensing deal with Kellwood Co., as reported, while Michael Kors’ name has come up in reported talks for a similar project with Jones. Oscar de la Renta is also said to be negotiating with J.C. Penney Co. on a moderate-to-better sub-brand.

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