By  on April 27, 1994

NEW YORK -- For three years, Colin Baer and Antonio Campbell have spent much of their time making decisions about how best to advance their bridge sportswear and dress collection business.

While they may have made some mistakes along the way, the two partners feel that with the opening of a showroom at 552 Seventh Ave., a full collection for fall and the exposure of their first runway show, their feet are on solid ground.

Last October, Baer and Campbell decided they were more interested in wholesaling Baer's signature collection than in retailing -- so they closed their two-year-old store on East Seventh Street in Manhattan's East Village and moved uptown.

"Colin's strength is a more suited look, and that didn't really work in the East Village," said Campbell, who handles sales. "When we were considering closing the store to go wholesale, we thought about setting up in SoHo, but decided Seventh Avenue would be better. It would be too difficult to get the buyers downtown."

Baer designed a small selection of coordinated groupings for spring and exhibited at the International Fashion & Boutique Show, having been told by various contacts that it would be good exposure. The partners realized after arriving at the show that it wasn't the right environment for the collection, which focuses on sophisticated separates and dresses at a bridge prices.

Should they decide to try another show, said Campbell, they now feel the Fashion Coterie would be a better fit.

The wholesale prices of the collection, which mixes men's wear influences with feminine, shaped looks, are about $75 for wool skirts, $110 to $125 for doubleknit wool jersey jackets and $350 for silk chiffon and velvet evening pieces. They expect the fall season's sales to reach $250,000. In another move to raise the line's profile, the partners decided to have a show during the recent 7th on Sixth fall collections week. "It proves to people that you're serious," said Baer.

To finance it, Campbell said he found a backer for only the show, in exchange for a percentage of the fall season's sales. It was staged in a storefront at 111 West 42nd St., a short walk from the 7th on Sixth tents in Bryant Park."We've been able to tell from reading different articles that a designer is much more believable to retailers and press once he's had a show," said Campbell. "And we just got the backer in for the show because we've also read about the problems designers have had when they give up any ownership of their business."

Now, with retailers just getting into the smaller showrooms for fall ordering, the duo is waiting to see if they made the right decision. "We have gotten calls from major stores that I wouldn't have necessarily been able to get through to without the show," said Campbell.

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