NEW YORK — Hugo Boss wants in on the accessories action.

In an effort to bolster its fast-growing Boss Woman business, the firm is relaunching its women’s accessories for fall 2005. The company bought back the licenses for shoes and accessories in April (watches, fragrance and eyewear continue to be licensed), and an accessories design team has been hired.

“We took [our licenses] back because we believe you should do everything in-house that is related to the core business,” said board member Andre Maeder, who oversees worldwide retailing, shoes and accessories, as well as the subsidiaries in the U.S. and Japan.

Since 1995, shoes and accessories were licensed to MH Shoes and Accessories.

“Accessories will be the engine for the women’s wear collection,” said Maeder, adding that he expects Hugo Boss accessories to be a core part of the overall business by 2007.

Hugo Boss posted sales of $421.3 million in the first quarter of 2004, a 5 percent increase over the same period in 2003. But Boss Woman has been a standout, with more than a 30 percent increase in first-quarter sales.

Maeder — who joined Boss in January from the S. Oliver Group, a German maker of men’s, women’s and children’s sportswear, and who had been executive merchandise director at Harrods of London — anticipates the accessories collection will be positioned against established brands such as Coach and Furla. But, while he hopes to match them in terms of price point and image, he’s quick to point out that the overall look will be sexier and edgier than those brands.

Sylvia Turbolente, formerly a handbag designer at Fendi, has been tapped to design leather goods. Women’s and men’s shoes will be spearheaded by two other designers, whom Maeder declined to name. Turbolente will start Aug. 1, and the others will join later in the month, in time to start work on the fall 2005 collection.

But the company is not waiting until next summer to start generating buzz. In August, the lower level of the brand’s Fifth Avenue flagship will be devoted to the current accessories collection. “[Our] accessories do quite well already,” Maeder noted. However, he said they still account for less than 10 percent of the brand’s total business. He’d like to see that improve to 20 percent with the relaunch.Shoe selections in the revamped collection will increase from 50 styles to between 120 and 150, and roughly 60 to 80 bags will be offered, whereas now there are about 25 styles in the line. The company also will introduce women’s luggage.

— Emily Holt

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