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Ellen Tracy: Jewelry, Handbags Bow for Fall

Liz Claiborne’s first collection of Ellen Tracy handbags and jewelry includes an array of styles and looks for day and evening set to bow for fall.

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NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne Inc. doesn’t really do anything small, so it’s no surprise that the company’s first collection of Ellen Tracy handbags and jewelry includes a vast array of styles and looks for day and evening set to bow for fall.

While the 54-year-old bridge brand has long had licensees in categories from belts to bath products, this is its first entrance into these two accessories segments. It’s a natural development from Claiborne’s perspective, since the fashion giant produces handbags and jewelry for many of its company-owned brands, and both handbags and jewelry have been standouts at retail, receiving more space at many stores as of late.

Claiborne purchased Ellen Tracy last September for about $180 million, as reported, and it immediately got to work finding ways to extend the brand.

“We are very serious about handbags and jewelry,” said Ed Bucciarelli, president of the Liz Claiborne Accessory Group. “This is designed to complete the lifestyle of the Ellen Tracy line.”

Similar to Ellen Tracy’s bridge apparel, the handbags are full of sophisticated yet wearable looks with a hint of sex appeal. The wide collection includes styles for both day and evening, including fur handbags, double-faced boiled wool totes, suede clutches and leather wristlets, as well as pearl and beaded evening styles. There are also metallic looks and tiny shoulder bags and a selection of small leather goods, including wallets and ID holders.

Many of the items have touches such as red interiors, chain straps or frames inspired by vintage looks. Wholesale prices range from about $48 for wristlets up to $500 for a chinchilla evening bags, with the bulk falling in the range of $60 to $120.

The jewelry, meanwhile, includes sterling silver cuff bracelets and plenty of semiprecious stones, such as mother-of-pearl, carnelian, onyx and labradorite, along with cubic zirconia. Much of the jewelry has white or yellow bronze with hand-polished finishes.

“Nothing is timid in this collection,” said Bucciarelli, who noted that LCI has worked closely with Ellen Tracy design director Linda Allard to develop the handbags and jewelry. “Everything has a gutsiness to it.”

Both lines will be targeted to stores where Ellen Tracy apparel and accessories are sold already, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus, as well as Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Dillard’s, Bucciarelli noted. Company executives declined to give sales projections for the line, but said they expect it to be “substantial.”

Ellen Tracy handbags and jewelry come at a time of rapid growth at Claiborne’s accessories division, which has recently launched a number of other collections, both in brands it owns and ones it produces under license. Among the newest offerings are Monet bridal jewelry, Kenneth Cole jewelry, Sigrid Olsen handbags and Lucky Brand Dungarees accessories.

Claiborne executives have spoken often about the importance of accessories to their overall business. In 2002, sales in the wholesale nonapparel segment, which primarily includes accessories, grew 5.6 percent to $138 million.

The LCA accessories showroom has been redesigned so that Ellen Tracy, Kenneth Cole, Olsen and Lucky Brand Dungarees each have their own mini showrooms in the downstairs area, which formerly housed human resources.

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