By  on August 16, 2006

NEW YORK — Calvin Klein continues to bulk up its white label division.

After an underperforming start, its better-priced sportswear line was relaunched under Kellwood Co. for fall, and a fine-tuned product assortment recently has been shipped to stores. While it is still too early to gauge consumer reaction, Calvin Klein Inc. executives already are on to their next brand extension: In December, a new dress line licensed to G-III Apparel Group will be available in better dress departments at department and specialty stores nationwide.

Company executives describe the dress launch as a major initiative in parent Phillips-Van Heusen's growth plans for CKI. And those plans are ambitious ones: Emanuel Chirico, PVH's chief executive officer, said in June that the goal is to add $2 billion to $3 billion of business to CKI's $4 billion in sales over the next five to 10 years. With PVH having set CKI up as a licensing operation after the 2003 acquisition, that revenue must come from strategic licenses, such as the new dress line.

"There are a lot of growth initiatives throughout Europe and Asia [for the company overall]," said Tom Murry, CKI's president and chief operating officer, describing the dress launch as a major push. "Dresses are one of the top 10 initiatives. We expect to be a dominant player in the U.S. better dress classification area."

The dress collection — which is not to be confused with the dresses available within Kellwood's in-store shops for white label sportswear — will launch softly on better dress floors in December, with a complete rollout planned for spring. The collection will be available at Federated Department Store divisions such as Macy's East and North, as well as at Dillard's, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Parisian. In its first month, the line will be distributed to about 265 doors, stepping up to 400 to 450 doors in January.

"There are not a lot of department store brands in dress departments, and it's a good step to have Calvin Klein there," said Rob Smith, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Macy's East, which is launching the dress line. "[Calvin Klein] is performing well at almost everywhere we have it. The Calvin Klein brand strengthens the validity of dresses as a classification, too."

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