By  on September 6, 2005

NEW YORK — Kellwood Co.'s Halmode division and Liz Claiborne Inc. are working together to help set the trends in the dress department.

Halmode, which has produced Liz Claiborne brand suits and dresses for the past three years, will launch new divisions for two more Claiborne brands — Emma James dresses and suits and J.H. Collectibles dresses — for spring selling.

"Our major department stores came to us in need of something new for their dress areas," said Jay Diamond, chief executive officer at Halmode. "They wanted brands, and we see Emma James and J.H. Collectibles as two of the hottest moderate brands on the market."

The result is two new dress lines (the suit collection for Emma James is still being worked on). According to Cate Bundel, president of Emma James and J.H. Collectibles dresses at Halmode, Emma James dresses are geared to a more conservative department store shopper, who looks for price value and appropriate fit and aims for that effortless "put together" look. The styling of that line is tailored and feminine, such as the polyester blend coat dresses and linen pantsuits with chiffon ruffle accents.

J.H. Collectibles is clearly geared for a trendier consumer who wants to look put together, but enjoys mixing and matching within her wardrobe. Bundel said this customer pays attention to better fabrics, yarns and other details, but is limited in her disposable income. The line includes three-piece pants sets with bra-friendly tanks sold with polyester and chiffon burnout coats and faux wrap jacket dresses accented with wooden beading.

Both lines are made with exclusive company-developed prints and fabrics, but follow the same color palettes and fits as in the sportswear collections.

Barbara Friedman, president of licensing at Claiborne, noted, "We want to give the customer another reason to buy and offer her more versatility in her clothing choices. But these lines can also be mixed and matched with the sportswear very easily."

The dress lines are made with fabrics that are easy to care for, most being machine washable.

"Easy-care fabrics are a huge selling point for this customer," Bundel said. "She wants dressing to be effortless."The Emma James and J.H. Collectibles sportswear lines are now sold in 1,651 department store doors of retailers such as Federated and Dillard's. Diamond said he is aiming for the dress lines to be in these doors, as well. The first delivery will hit retail floors in February and each line consists of about 75 pieces. Each brand will launch in four size ranges: misses, plus, petites and plus petites. The lines wholesale between $40 and $60.

The company will also launch a full in-store marketing campaign to include visuals and direct marketing as well as in-store events that are in the works.

Diamond said he could not divulge volume expectations for the first year at retail, but did say he sees these new lines accounting for 10 percent of Halmode's overall business. Besides Liz Claiborne suits and dresses, Halmode produces Sag Harbor Dresses and Sag Harbor Suits, Miss Dorby and Plaza South.

Friedman said Claiborne is looking for more licensees to work with the Emma James and J.H. Collectibles brands. She said she would like to launch footwear as well as other apparel-related products.

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