NEW YORK — Coach is knitting something special for fall.
The accessories house is teaming up with cashmere label Lutz & Patmos for a capsule line of women's knitwear. The launch collection, scheduled to reach Coach flagships in October, will consist of at least six pieces made of cashmere and wool, sometimes mixed with fur and leather.
Coach president and executive creative director Reed Krakoff will collaborate with Lutz & Patmos designers Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos on the project, which is slated to continue at least through spring 2007. The knitwear will be labeled Coach.
Retail prices will range from $300 to $1,500. Krakoff didn't disclose sales projections. In the six months ended Dec. 31, Coach's sales rose 25.5 percent to $1.1 billion.
"We are always looking for new areas to expand on what we do, and to add texture and newness to the store environment and the consumer experience," Krakoff told WWD. "We had done kids' and babies' items and a little bit of jewelry. We started thinking about what we'd like to do this year and one of the things was knitwear."
Krakoff met the of-the-moment cashmere designers as a judge for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards, which featured Lutz & Patmos as finalists. The three found their aesthetic visions were not too dissimilar.
"They are very much about quality and they shared a design aesthetic that we felt was similar, which was not overly designed, functional and still chic and fashionable," Krakoff said.
For the new sweater collection, Krakoff, Lutz and Patmos dug into Coach's archives for inspiration and incorporated turnlock closures, buckles and swatches of leather into the designs. Some sweaters feature C-logo embroidery, while others will use a Coach dog leash as a belt. Many color tones are taken from vintage Bonnie Cashin designs. Cashin was hired as a designer for Coach in 1964 to create a women's accessories line.
"We were inspired by Coach's past," Lutz said. "We looked at all the heritage pieces. Coach has so many key elements, like the turnlock closure and other hardware. It's great to work with these iconic Coach elements."Krakoff added, "The sweaters are in keeping with the collection that we are launching this fall called Legacy. We wanted the knitwear collection to be functional. It's very much in the Coach aesthetic, which is casual chic, very American and easy to wear."
Lutz and Patmos met in 1995 and connected over their shared interest in knitwear. They founded their label in 2000, and since fall 2001 have invited guest designers, asking them to create their ideal cashmere sweater. The guest designers have included Christy Turlington, Sofia Coppola, industrial designer Yves Béhar and photographer Inez Van Lamsveerde. During New York Fashion Week earlier this month, the duo unveiled a sweater designed with French Vogue editor in chief Carine Roitfeld, and the next guest designer will be stylist L'Wren Scott.
Lutz said the Coach collection is different in that it is a true collaboration between Patmos, Krakoff and her.
"We know about Coach's history and closely watched its success and turnaround in the last few years," Lutz said. "It's so fascinating to get another point of view and to dive into a history that is completely new to us, profit from its heritage and make a line of sweaters around it."
This is the first time Coach has collaborated with independent designers. Krakoff didn't rule out future collaborations of such a nature, though he added: "It's really on a case-by-case basis. We are enjoying this project. We will see how it goes."
In the past, Krakoff has repeatedly stated that Coach is not interested in launching a full apparel collection, a point he reiterated on Wednesday.
"This is just an extension, which happens to be in clothing, but it's no different than when we do outerwear pieces," he said. "We have no interest in being in the apparel business. We wanted to do it to fill out our assortment in the store environment, and keep the floors looking exciting and surprising to people. Each new category brings a slightly different take and fleshes out who the Coach woman is."