Calvin Klein Goes Casual

CKI is expanding its license with Kellwood Co. and G.A.V. with a second collection headed to stores for spring called Calvin Klein Casual.

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NEW YORK — Calvin Klein is rapidly expanding into new territories to the point where a brand known for its sophisticated minimalism is going casual.

In what executives described as an amendment to its year-old license for women’s better sportswear with Kellwood Co. and G.A.V., the companies will begin shipping a second collection to department stores for spring under the label Calvin Klein Casual.

The new subbrand, which will focus on clothes for weekends or casual workplaces, will lower the brand’s price threshold to an average estimated at $75 for a retail item, compared with about $150 in the career-oriented Calvin Klein collection that Kellwood and G.A.V. launched at retail this year. Kellwood manufactures the line and G.A.V. designs it.

The better-priced collection was extended, in essence, to target suburban department stores that had been interested in carrying the designer company’s new offerings, but whose customer base was interested in more casual clothes than what Kellwood and G.A.V. have been producing for retailers such as Federated Department Stores, May Co., Dillard’s and Saks Inc.

The career Calvin Klein collection was rolled out to about 200 doors, while the Calvin Klein Casual line is destined for about 100 stores, including some overlapping units where they will be merchandised together, said Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Inc.

“It’s an important niche we had not been in previously,” Murry said. “This will be a casual collection driven by casual sportswear. It can complement the career sportswear or it can stand on its own. We will be out there in several different configurations.”

From the retailers’ perspective, the Calvin Klein launch has been cited as one of the most successful of the many designers trying to penetrate the better floors of department stores, although the fall season started with a challenging August and September. While Murry would not disclose figures on the line, the collection is anticipated to generate around $80 million in sales this year, about twice its plan, according to industry estimates.

The introduction of a Calvin Klein Casual label is the latest in a series of brand extensions that have taken place since Phillips-Van Heusen completed its acquisition of the company in February 2003 — many of which had been planned but were put on hold during the sale.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company introduced the Choice Calvin Klein label first in innerwear and is continuing with denim and swimwear for spring, as part of a broader extension of its business with Warnaco Group. That also includes a new CK39 superpremium jeans line for spring. The women’s cK Calvin Klein bridge relaunch also is expected to land in stores for holiday deliveries beginning next month, and is also licensed to G.A.V.

The new Casual concept will focus on less-structured knits and sportswear with a similar logo to the existing better product, except that it will be printed on the inside of the garment instead of sewn on as a label.

“We have always had both a casual and career component, even in Collection and the bridge business,” Murry said. “In the U.S., there is so much opportunity in department stores just by their mere size and visualization that it lends itself to these different categories of business.”

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