By  on August 24, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Federated Department Stores Inc., didn't hesitate last month when an investor pressed him at the annual shareholders meeting to identify the brand of a bright floral print jacket she was wearing.

"David Meister," he said.

The namesake designer behind the only bridge line in Kellwood Co.'s catalogue of brands appeared humbled by the recognition.

In six years, the David Meister brand has grown into a $30 million dress and sportswear business that most recently staked a claim to prime real estate between Tahari and CK in The New View department at Bloomingdale's 59th Street flagship in Manhattan.

But Meister, 43, knows his work has only begun.

"I meet a lot of people who don't know who I am," Meister said from his studio on the campus of parent Kellwood Co. in City of Industry, Calif., 18 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. "We've developed this great business in all these different areas. But I'm a part of the brand. It's my point of view. And now we want to take it to the next step."

That next step: building a lifestyle brand.

Meister said he has "started conversations" to extend his name onto several licensed categories, including handbags, footwear and swimwear. A freestanding store and a runway show — both firsts for Meister —also top the list. And after a key move this spring into the high-profile 550 Seventh Avenue showroom in New York, the company followed up by hiring an outside brand consultant, Lividini Weisenfeld Partners, and Siren Public Relations to choreograph it all.

Sales are up 30 percent for this fall compared with a year ago, said Penny Aschkenasy, president of ENC, the Kellwood division that includes the Meister brand. Still, she said, "There is a person behind the label and that's what the world doesn't know — yet."

The brand is carried in 400 U.S. doors, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Neiman's is Meister's leading account and where he launched an exclusive suit collection this summer.

More in-store shops are in the works for Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus, said Aschkenasy. Abroad, his biggest accounts are Holt Renfrew in Canada and Selfridges in the U.K . Meister's annual sales are relatively modest among the roster at the $2.5 billion, publicly traded Kellwood, which includes brands as disparate as Phat Farm and Sag Harbor.

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