NEW YORK — Calvin Klein Inc. will embark on a major relaunch of its cK Calvin Klein bridge line next year, beginning with the Asian market.

The bridge line was shuttered in the U.S., Europe and the Mideast in the spring of 2001, although it has flourished in the Japanese market in a licensing deal with On Business Trend Co. Ltd., a Tokyo manufacturer and retailer, which will continue.

CKI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., said Monday it has entered into a long-term strategic licensing arrangement with Christina Ong’s CK 21 Holdings Pte. Ltd. for cK Calvin Klein products in select countries, including China. The agreement covers women’s and men’s bridge sportswear, men’s clothing and furnishings, women’s and men’s dress shoes, women’s handbags and small leather goods under the cK Calvin Klein label, beginning with spring 2004.

The CK 21 license also includes freestanding cK Calvin Klein stores and shop-in-shops in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China.In Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, CK 21 will open shop-in-shops and will sub-license freestanding stores.

“This new agreement for Asia is the first step in relaunching cK Calvin Klein bridge sportswear globally,” said Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of CKI. “We are already in discussions with potential partners for the U.S. and Europe, and we continue to hold a leading position with cK Calvin Klein apparel in Japan.”

Murry told WWD he expects to have new bridge deals in place for the U.S. and Europe in the spring of 2005.

As reported, Kellwood Co. and G.A.V. have teamed up to launch a women’s Calvin Klein better sportswear collection for the U.S. market for spring 2004 retailing.

Murry noted that CK 21 is currently building freestanding stores, and two will open for spring 2004 in Malaysia and Bangkok, followed by freestanding units in Hong Kong and Singapore. An in-store shop will also open this spring in Singapore.

He said that CKI has had a longstanding relationship with Christina Ong and the CK 21 organization, which operates the Calvin Klein Collection store in Singapore. Ong had previously operated cK Calvin Klein stores in Southeast Asia during the time when Stefanel had the license to produce the bridge line for Europe and the Mideast, he said.Calvin Klein’s bridge business has had a rocky history. CKI abruptly shut down its eight-year-old cK Calvin Klein business two years ago to focus on its Collection business. Around the same time, it ended its agreement with Stefanel, which produced the cK Calvin Klein collection for Europe and the Mideast under license and through a joint-venture company formed with Calvin Klein in 1996. Both CKI and Stefanel agreed to terminate the five-year-old venture, called Sky Co. SpA, which included a small string of cK stores there. The European line had not reached CKI’s plan and was operating at a loss for Stefanel, as sales in 2000 had reached only $20 million to $25 million.

The cK Calvin Klein line was merged into its existing jeanswear licensee, Gruppo Fratini, under the cK Calvin Klein Jeans umbrella for distribution in Europe and Asia. Fratini still operates the cK Calvin Klein Jeans business in Europe and Asia.

Murry believes the cK Calvin Klein bridge business has tremendous potential in Asia. Although he declined to disclose a volume projection, he said, “We expect this to be a significant volume opportunity for us globally when it’s developed.”

He said he chose CK 21 and Christina Ong because “they’re as good a merchant as there is in that part of the world.”

“They do A|X Armani and DKNY and have many freestanding stores. They’re great merchants, they know how to operate retail stores, both freestanding ones and shop-in-shops, where they sell on a consignment basis into multibrand stores,” he said.

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