NEW YORK — Public Clothing Co.’s French Cuff brand has fine-tuned itself with a more fashionable focus as it continues to establish itself in the trend-starved moderate sector.

The three-year-old line, which is targeted at department stores, hopes to reach $50 million in wholesale volume by the end of the year and expects to grow that number next year.

Spring was the first season with the less-basic approach and the results were strong.

“Consumers today are more aware and expect great quality and are driven by price,” said Dan Shamdasani, president of Public Clothing Co. “What French Cuff brings to this consumer who’s energetic, youthful and creative is trend-right product that speaks to her lifestyle.”

To stand out among the sea of vendors in department stores, the company will have a program available to department stores starting in spring 2004 to develop soft shops.

“It will allow us to have a replenishment program in place on key items,” Shamdasani said. “If we are able to control a table or rack on key items, we will be able to replenish them on a consistent basis. And it gets the name out and makes a one-branded statement.”

Also beginning next spring, the company will start advertising via in-store promotions and outdoor billboards, he said.

Janet David, district merchandise manager for moderate sportswear at Macy’s East, said she has liked what she has seen from French Cuff.

“It’s our first season with them in all doors and they have performed well,” David said. “Their woven tops, new-looking embroideries and fun shirts seem to be their strength. The woven tops have been a nice addition to our business.”

With women looking for mix-and-match merchandise, the line is now focused on items like denim treatments in pants and jackets ranging from sandblasting to tints and whiskering, crinkled tops, fur-trim and sherpa-trim jackets, as well as skirts. Prices wholesale run from $12 for knit tops and $20 for pants to $25 for jackets.

“The approach we’ve taken is that opposites attract and women are mixing unusual combinations to create a look,” said Becky Fazi, creative director for French Cuff. “Dressier-occasion items with blasted jeans, for instance.”That experimentation also means consumers are no longer loyal to one brand, further emphasizing the need to be item focused, Shamdasani said, whose company also makes the licensed Perry Ellis women’s line and owns the Generra brand.

“With the fast and furious verticals like H&M, Zara and Club Monaco, it really puts into notion of what we know about speed-to-market and trends,” he said. “Department stores now have to keep up with this whole other segment that is faster and driven by trend. We’re turning merchandise in 60 days, 90 days, and our business model is geared to address that vertical segment.”

Fazi said the target consumer is someone 30 years and up, so the collection is stylish but with a more generous misses’ fit. She and her team of designers travel to Europe roughly four times a year, watch the streets and the runway looking to keep up on the trends.

“If there’s a trend on the runway, we’re seeing if there’s a way to adapt that to what we’re doing,” Fazi said. “This consumer is definitely wearing something that’s comfortable, so there are certain fabrics she’ll gravitate to….Stretch in any fabric is key.”

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