NEW YORK — Courvoisier definitely has a Napoleon complex, but not in the traditional sense.

The liquor brand, which was named the official supplier to the imperial court by Napoleon III in 1869 and uses the phrase “Le Cognac de Napoleon” as its slogan, is making a splash into the fashion world and launching its own line of apparel for fall 2004 called House of Courvoisier.

However, Courvoisier is not unfamiliar with the field. The brand was the official spirit sponsor of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February and has collaborated with designers such as Jeremy Scott, Anya Hindmarch and Patricia Field. While previous projects sought to promote the alcohol, the new venture comes from a strong belief that the brand’s 200-year-old history and status as a luxury liquor brand can be parlayed into other markets.

“We really believe strongly that the Courvoisier trademark has the ability to create real value outside of alcoholic beverages,” said Sandy Mayo, vice president of marketing and sales for House of Courvoisier. “We’re investing behind the resources and the ability to create real luxury fashion products. It’s a completely different mind-set to alcohol promotions.”

Courvoisier, which is owned by Allied Domecq, is investing around $600,000 in the project, according to Mayo, while first-year sales of the line are expected to reach between $1.5 and $2 million. The brand will be based at the Allied Domecq headquarters in Bristol, U.K., but will be designed in New York.

The company has enlisted Claude Morais and Brian Wolk, the designers behind the Ruffian neckwear line, as creative design directors to establish and develop House of Courvoisier’s image and product line. Between the two of them, Morais and Wolk have worked on projects with Chanel, Julien Macdonald and Francis Ford Coppola, and recently launched women’s neckwear during Fashion Week in September at an event sponsored by Courvoisier held at the Carlyle Hotel.

“In terms of the image of House of Courvoisier, it’s very different from what we do at Ruffian,” said Wolk. “But what we believe in in terms of quality and craftsmanship translates to Courvoisier.”

Due to their experience in the accessories world, an introductory line focusing more on accessories will bow during fashion week in February, though the designers said there will also be select pieces of outerwear and some evening gowns geared to the awards show season. A complete line of men’s and women’s apparel and accessories will be presented at a runway show during New York Fashion Week in September for spring 2005.“We just did a trip to Europe and visited all these places where Napoleon and Josephine lived,” said Wolk. “We looked at objects from their world such as furniture pieces and other things from the Empire period as a base, and plan to springboard them to contemporary design.”

While the line is still in its early stages, House of Courvoisier will be targeted to high-end department and specialty stores in the U.S. before being expanded to the U.K., France and Japan, said Mayo. Prices, for example, could run anywhere from $150 for some accessories to $3,000 for a gown. Fabrics will come from upscale European mills, many of which work with top rtw and couture houses in Europe, according to Morais, while manufacturing will be split between the U.S. and Europe.

“We’re two young designers who have a lot of pride in our work and what we put together,” said Morais. “Something like this is an amazing opportunity.”

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