NEW YORK — With an eye on exclusivity, Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro is taking another crack at the U.S. market.

Alexander Vreeland, president and chief operating officer of G.A.V., confirmed Monday that he, Andrew Grossman and Jay Schottenstein are relaunching the Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro bridge line in the U.S. for fall 2003 retailing.

“We have the license, and it starts for September 2003 deliveries. We’re in market right now,” said Vreeland, from the line’s temporary showroom at 11 West 42nd St. here.

The collection will be geared to the “upper end of bridge,” and will have a limited distribution for fall. It will be sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Marshall Field’s, as well as 20 specialty stores, he said.

“We’re not looking to replicate the overdistribution and promotional business done in the past. The numbers they had originally hit are not our benchmark,” said Vreeland. Grossman serves as G.A.V.’s chief executive officer and Schottenstein is the financial backer.

Initially licensed in 1991 to GFT USA Corp., Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro was conceived for the U.S. market and became a $150 million powerhouse in just five years. In 1997, its wholesale volume was reported to have reached a peak of about $160 million. But when sales in the bridge category began to plummet, Emanuel reportedly overloaded stores with merchandise and had to pay substantial markdowns, and sales fell to about $75 million. The line was relaunched again in spring 2000 by deV&P, a company established by former Emanuel ceo Maura de Visscher and president Kim Perrone, but the business was closed within the year and liquidated.

Vreeland said that G.A.V. signed a deal with Ferragamo, which controls the Emanuel Ungaro brand, on May 14, but wanted to wait to reveal the news until after the CK Calvin Klein deal was announced. The CK deal was struck last Thursday among Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., Kellwood Co. and G.A.V., as reported.

Vreeland said he’s in the midst of hiring people for CK Calvin Klein, and has a small staff handling Emanuel. Each will have its own separate showroom.

Reached in Paris, Emanuel Ungaro said, “Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro once filled a significant niche in the American bridge market that to this day has not been replaced. As fashion has become more feminine, and prints have become more prominent, it seemed like the perfect time to reintroduce the Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro concept.”Ungaro believes the G.A.V. executives “bring a strong designer background, and knowledge of marrying designer concept with bridge strategy.”

Vreeland previously served as executive vice president of Giorgio Armani; Grossman had earlier been chief operating officer of Giorgio Armani Corp.,and Schottenstein is chairman of American Eagle Outfitters.

Asked how the brand will differ from the previous incarnation, Ungaro replied, “Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro was always based on the Emanuel Ungaro aesthetic, but geared specifically to the U.S. market. This time the prices will be at the top end of bridge, and the clothes will be made mainly in the finest factories in the Far East. The fabrics come mainly from Italy and Japan.”

G.A.V. has hired Jeffery Kong, a previous designer for Emanuel, to design the new collection. The line is being coordinated by Robert Forrest, who is working directly with Ungaro.

According to Vreeland, wholesale prices for jackets are $200, pants are $100, dresses are $50 and blouses are $100. Fabrics will include wools, silks, cashmeres and suedes. Vreeland expects the line will hang near such resources as Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Theory.

Ungaro said the house will continue with its Fuchsia and Fever diffusion lines, which fill a different niche

“Ungaro Fuchsia is younger in spirit and can be considered a true diffusion of the ready-to-wear collection. Ungaro Fever, which is in the designer denim category, is priced below Emanuel/Emanuel Ungaro and is aimed at a much younger demographic,” he said. He said Emanuel will be priced below Ungaro Fuchsia and above Ungaro Fever.

Undeterred by his previous experience in the bridge market, Ungaro believes the market can certainly support another bridge resource.

“We believe that the bridge business in the U.S. is healthy.”

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