By  on June 7, 2007

NEW YORK — What do you get when you combine a seasonal collection mentality with a store like cheap-chic outpost Forever 21? You get Twelve by Twelve, the new line by the California retailer that eschews an item-by-item sales approach for a more cohesive — and luxed-up — design concept.

";Forever 21 is fast fashion, it's quick-turn, young and fun," said Betsy Zanjani, vice president of merchandising for the project, ";whereas Twelve by Twelve is a grouping of items designed to go together, to be worn together. It will be a little bit more sophisticated, much more luxury."

Indulgent as this new line may be, with its high-fashion attitude, the collection nevertheless bears the Forever 21 wallet-friendly stamp. On average, prices are 35 percent higher than in the core line, but each Twelve by Twelve piece clocks in at less than $100.

Guests got a preview of the new Twelve by Twelve lineup at a presentation Tuesday night at Soho House. There was everything from fake-leopard-fur coats to Empire dresses and cocktail frocks with pretty pleated collars. Zanjani and crew even screened a video they filmed of the behind-the-scenes action to give the audience a glimpse of the product's development. ";Are we street enough?" she queried her designers in one scene. ";We want to make sure we have enough newness all the time," she remarked in another.

During the event, Zanjani admitted that this was a ";brash decision, to tell you what we are doing." And, indeed, the company has typically kept a low profile. This venture, however, is a bold move, one it hopes will up the ante in an increasingly competitive fashion-for-less market.

The clothes at Forever 21 typically target a junior audience, but Zanjani noted that the new Twelve by Twelve line would aim for the ";new 30." By that, she means everyone from the twentysomething starlets of Young Hollywood — ";they all look like they're 30, they're so pulled together" — to 50-year-olds looking to dress with a fresh spin. ";This is for someone who wants a slightly different shopping environment, who wants more quality, more attention to detail, just beautiful, good pieces," she continued.And Zanjani is confident that Forever 21 consumer is out there. In fact, she knows it. Twelve by Twelve made its debut last year with a test capsule collection. Though merchandised together, subsequent collections were distributed and housed separately throughout the store. ";Even though it was at a higher price point, the stuff sold amazingly well," Zanjani said. ";We realized in a very short period of time that the product was being singled out by the customer. They were buying it and reacting to it in such a positive way that it warranted its own environment. Finally we said, 'Let's give it its own identity.'"

The upcoming collection will launch its own Web site later this month (twelvebytwelve.com), which will be followed by 10 to 15 in-store boutiques in already-existing Forever 21 locales. Twelve by Twelve also will get its very own retail shop at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles this fall. Zanjani promised accessories, too — fingerless knit gloves, jewelry, hats and vintage pieces. ";It's a full line of everything our customer needs," she explained. ";I feel like we have no restrictions."

As for the moniker, it echoes the common theme of ";Forever 21 with a luxury twist." Visually, the number 12 is a reversed 21 — a literal twist — and there are 12 designers on Zanjani's team, hence the ";by Twelve." But that's not all. ";Some amazing coincidences happened along the way of developing the line. We have teams in Korea and China, as well," Zanjani said. ";Our offices in Shanghai are on the 12th floor and the flight I take to and from Korea and L.A.? It's flight 12."

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