By  on March 2, 1994

BERLIN -- Escada is going for a family feeling with its new line, Escada Sport.

The line was introduced during the CPD trade fair in Dusseldorf last month and will make its American debut this spring -- probably in April -- in the Escada showroom in New York.

The 65-piece collection of casual separates for fall 1994 is designed by Escada chief designer Michael Stolzenburg. Escada Sport prices will run about 40 percent below the main Escada collection, said a spokeswoman.

The pieces are sized from small to extra-large, so that when it comes to appropriate unisex pieces, such as sweats, they fit not only the Escada woman, but also her male counterpart.

Escada Sport is composed of double-faced sweatshirts; cashmere and wool sweaters; cotton denim jeans and jackets; wool/angora/cashmere casual blazers and jackets; cotton oxford and flannel shirts, and cotton jersey T-shirts. Colors include navy, flannel and athletic gray, denim blue and blueberry.

According to Stolzenberg, Escada Sport is geared not only to the established Escada customer, "but at the same time speaks to a younger generation that in the future, perhaps, will grow into Escada couture. And it also appeals to new customers," he added.

The collection is conceived as a group of casual wardrobe basics that will be available year-round. "Escada Sport won't go on sale," said Wolfgang Ley, Escada's chief executive officer. Styles will continue through more than one season, and one to two new groups will be added each season, he explained.

Compared to the 900-piece Escada collection, Escada Sport is starting small. Ley said the collection will be sold in Escada shops and a maximum of one-third of the collection's current accounts.

"We will start with a very limited distribution. Only accounts willing to build customer share and create another atmosphere will be considered. But we already have guaranteed sales in the States," he said. Ley wouldn't reveal sales projections, but said the company expects to sell 75,000 to 80,000 pieces worldwide the first season.

"The quality and finishing is on the same level as the Escada collection," said Stolzenburg. "We're working with the same fabric companies and producers as for Escada, and it's important Escada Sport has my signature look. But the precondition of this group," he added, " was that it should be fun for me. And I would wear 80 percent of the sweatshirt styles myself."In collaboration with the launch, Escada Sport has produced a catalog, photographed in Palm Beach, Fla., by Pamela Hanson, using men, women and children.

The collection was launched in response to a recent marketing survey conducted for Escada by Roland Berger, an international consulting firm, in France, Italy, England, Belgium and Switzerland. The study found that retailers felt "the biggest void [in the Escada range] was that the Escada woman had nothing for weekends, vacation, between the spa and hotel, golf course and luncheon," said Ley.

"She's a woman with a certain style, and she doesn't want to look like the typical active sportswear customer. And they said she's really not happy with the alternatives that exist," said Ley.

In addition to Escada Sport, Escada will introduce a small collection of knits under the Escada Knit Couture label in 1995, said Ley. Similarly, Classic Elements, another line extension, has been separated out of the main collection and represents "the essential pieces" for the Escada customer, added Ley.

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