By  on June 14, 2007

NEW YORK — Eve is back and she still has the same fetish for clothes.

The rapper/actress first launched her apparel brand Fetish in 2003. But she went through a rough ride in the business, introducing the collection with the Los Angeles-based Innovo Group, where she experienced production and delivery problems, and then switching to Marc Ecko Enterprises in 2004. Shortly after Eve entered a partnership with Ecko, the brand was shelved with promises to relaunch later.

That date never came, and Eve began to give up on her idea to add the job of designer to her résumé.

"After what happened with Marc, I wasn't sure I ever wanted to bring the brand back," she said in an interview. "It was a lot to deal with and I wasn't sure I wanted to deal with it again."

She said it was going to require much convincing for her to sign with a new partner. Earlier this year, that partner came along.

"I always liked the Fetish name and admired Eve's style," said Chris Laurita, president of Signature Apparel, who officially signed on as the rapper's partner in February. "When I heard that Ecko was shelving the brand, I immediately reached out to Eve, planned a meeting and we found out that really, we had the same vision for this brand. The whole thing happened really fast and I bought out Ecko's side of the partnership."

One major thing Eve stressed in her meetings with Laurita was that she wanted the product to be upgraded with better fabrics, modern styling and more fashionable pieces. The result is a full young contemporary sportswear collection that includes leather jackets, oversize cozy sweaters, high-waisted denim jeans and skirts, leather pants, wool plaid shorts and a few logo T-shirts scattered throughout. The denim pieces, which serve as the anchor of the line, wholesale from $50 to $80. The most expensive item, an outerwear piece, wholesales at around $300.

"The product is much higher quality than it was and is a step above what sits on the junior floor," Laurita said, explaining the new Fetish would be placed somewhere between the junior and contemporary areas in a store.Laurita said that for the initial launch for holiday, he will keep distribution tight, only selling to select specialty retailers. While he has yet to show the line to buyers, his ideal retailers would be stores like Up Against the Wall, Atrium and Lounge.

Laurita and Eve declined comment on first-year sales expectations for the relaunch, but sources close to the company said the brand should bring in about $15 million in wholesale volume in its first year at retail.

Eve, meanwhile, is busy planning her summer tour to coincide with the Aug. 7 launch of her album, "Here I Am." The video for her first single from the album, "Tambourine," has already gotten almost 250,000 views on YouTube.com and premiered on MTV's "TRL" on Wednesday. She's also been busy with upcoming films — "Ego," which is currently in post-production, and "Flashbacks of a Fool," which just finished filming in South Africa.

Despite her schedule, Eve, who is also a MAC Viva Glam girl, said she is determined to make Fetish work this time around.

"Now that I am not doing the TV show [UPN's "Eve" was canceled in 2005 after three years on the air], I have much more time to concentrate on Fetish," Eve said. "Chris and I are in constant communication, and I am always going to be very involved no matter what else is happening in my life."

The Fetish collection, which currently is in Signature Apparel's offices at 530 Seventh Avenue, will soon be available in the company's new offices at 1370 Broadway. Laurita just signed a lease for the 18,000-square-foot space this week. Besides Signature's partnership with Eve, the company produces the Rocawear junior line as well as Bella Roc, under licensing agreements.

The relaunch of Fetish comes at a time when many celebrity designers are either introducing collections or making an effort to upgrade their products, even as questions continue to rage over the long-term viability of celebrity apparel lines. Sienna Miller and Paris Hilton are two new names entering the arena for fall, while Jennifer Lopez is upgrading her young contemporary line with the launch of justsweet. In addition, Jessica Simpson is adding an array of new products to her mixture, including lingerie, handbags, swimwear and eyewear; mogul twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are extending their fashion house with the launch of contemporary label Elizabeth & James; Sean "Diddy" Combs promises to launch his much-anticipated women's line next spring at retail, and Victoria Beckham is introducing her DVB collection. Beckham will make a personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue today."This is a great time to be in celebrity licensing," said Michael Stone, president and chief executive officer of brand consultant firm Beanstalk Group, whose clients include the Olsens and Hilton. "What a celebrity needs to realize is that he or she has to be completely involved in the brand or it just will not work. They can't just be famous and then get a clothing line. They have to make sure the product they are selling is right and represents them."

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