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NEW YORK — If Billy Martin were still alive, the big news on the sports pages might be that he was returning to manage the New York Yankees once again, given the Bronx Bombers’ performance of late.

This story first appeared in the May 28, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

But the feisty fireplug’s days have passed, leaving the fashion brand he co-founded with Doug Newton 25 years ago to carry on his headline-making legacy.

Western brand Billy Martin’s USA, whose cowboy boots and belt buckles have found a following with celebrities and artists such as Angelina Jolie, Jewel and Christie Brinkley, has signed a licensing deal with Los Angeles-based Wyler Team International to produce a better-price sportswear line.

The casual lifestyle collection, focused around denim and suede jackets with western details, vintage-inspired shirts and flat-front pants in fabrics like leather and corduroy, is seeking to dress a woman roughly 35-to-50 years old, said Carolyn Palmieri, executive director of Billy Martin’s USA.

“A lot of these pieces don’t read ‘Western’ because of the way they are presented, such as a red pigment-dyed classic-styled western shirt or a swiss dot western shirt,” said Palmieri, at the company’s showroom at 552 Seventh Avenue, which looks more like a Colorado cabin, with a mural of the Rocky Mountains, log wood table and rustic leather couch.

“This woman is a soccer mom, but she’s not so traditional,” she said. “There’s people out there who want the essence of the West, but not in a hardcore way. These are really just comfort clothes.”

Focused on key items, the line features about 20 styles, such as quilted corduroy jackets and belted trousers. The entire collection is washable and about 90 percent of the fabrics feature stretch for extra comfort. Prices wholesale from $25 to $40 for woven shirts, $29 for denim pants, $40 for a quilted jacket and $75 for a leather jacket. The line is launching at retail for holiday and is targeting better department stores.

In terms of volume, the goal is to achieve $2 million wholesale during its first year and $3 million after that.

Palmieri said she thinks she’s struck a chord with American shoppers, taking note of the recent proliferation of murals depicting natural, outdoorsy themes in Manhattan restaurants like Butter and Gramercy Tavern, as well as the rise in popularity of country and western music.

“People are just looking for more calming messages during this stressful time,” she said. “And look at what Shania Twain and Sheryl Crow wear — they all shop at Billy Martin stores. This line is meant to complement what is sold at the Billy Martin stores, which is mostly accessories. Western wear is also one of the hottest trends in Europe now. This is a South Hampton crowd for sure — the name Billy Martin has a lot of significance in New York City.”

There are four Billy Martin’s USA stores: one in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs, East Hampton, and on East 60th Street in Manhattan.

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