By and  on January 21, 2008

NEW YORK — Gant will begin wholesaling a men’s collection designed in partnership with influential retailer Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of the trendy Jeffrey stores in New York and Atlanta as well as senior vice-president and director of designer merchandising at Nordstrom. Gant has sold an upscale, limited-edition collection exclusively at Jeffrey for the past two years, but the fall ’08 season is the first time that other U.S. retailers will be able to buy the line.

“Collaborating with one of the finest retail experts in the world has been a wonderful experience these last few years. Jeffrey’s exceptional taste level has allowed us to realize a new direction for the brand—one that honors where we came from while moving into the 21st century,” said Ari Hoffman, president and CEO of Gant USA.

“Collaborating with one of the finest retail experts in the world has been a wonderful experience these last few years. Jeffrey’s exceptional taste level has allowed us to realize a new direction for the brand—one that honors where we came from while moving into the 21st century,” said Ari Hoffman, president and CEO of Gant USA.

While Gant and Jeffrey initially created a small collection of limited-edition men’s oxford shirts and rugbys for the Jeffrey New York store in 2006, the line has evolved into additional categories each successive season. For this fall, the offering is a complete capsule collection in all wardrobe categories, including a reversible, herringbone carcoat, nylon down vest and jacket, padded rain slicker, cashmere sweaters and cardigans, club blazers, jersey and piqué polos, chinos and trousers, and oxford shirts and rugbys.

Retail prices range from $125 for a rugby to $900 for outerwear, making this the top tier of Gant product. The Jeffrey line will replace the Gant Limited Edition collection that the company sold to about 25 high-end retailers this spring, including Jake in Chicago and Kitson in L.A. Gant’s other labels include the youthful Rugger, the core Gant New Haven line and the upscale Elliot Gant.

The Jeffrey name and a brief explanation of the collaboration will appear on the new line’s hangtags, but not on the actual product itself.

“I’ve loved Gant since my teenage prep school days,” said Kalinsky. “With this collection, we’ve created the quintessential men’s wear items. It’s designed with the purest intent, and clear vision of simplicity and refinement. It’s done wonderfully for us at Jeffrey, and it’s given me the opportunity to cover all my bases. It’s great to have an idea and be able to get it made.”

Kalinsky is intimately involved in the design and merchandising of the Jeffrey collection. “I’m the approval person, but some of the items I brought to the table and some they brought to the table,” he explained. “I picked all the fabrics and colors for the buttondowns, and the carcoat was modeled after something I found, for example. I don’t call it designing, but I call it creating.”

Kalinsky is forgoing a fee for his work and use of the Jeffrey name, in exchange for a Gant contribution to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. “I get great product for my store and the organization gets a nice contribution, so I’m very happy,” he noted.

Previously, limited-edition Jeffrey footwear from Sperry, Pro-Keds and Bass was wholesaled to other retailers, but this is the first time that an apparel line is being offered. Asked if there was any concern that competing retailers might be hesitant to buy product with the Jeffrey name on it, Hoffman noted: “When we were doing product for Jeffrey exclusively, we were approached by several major retailers asking if they could carry the collection we were doing for him. Jeffrey is a unique specialty retailer, and not a national chain—it would not be a conflict for other stores.”

As for Nordstrom, Kalinsky said management there has always supported Jeffrey’s collaborations with outside brands, and had previously bought the Pro-Keds line. “I really hope that Nordstrom will want to buy the Gant collection, but not because it’s something I’ve created. They should only buy it if they really believe in the product.”

In other Gant news, Swiss retailer Maus Frères SA said last week it would not extend its takeover offer for the company, one month after launching a hostile bid for the Sweden-based sportswear firm.

But Maus, which owns French sportswear company Lacoste, said it “reserved the right to acquire additional shares in the future,” auguring a continued power struggle at Gant, which operates 310 stores.

Maus said it now holds “well above 30 percent” of Gant, including the 29.9 percent of shares it acquired on the Stockholm Stock Exchange before its offer closed on Friday. The total number of Gant shares Maus owns will be revealed “as soon as the number of tendered shares has been calculated,” the retailer said.

Swedish entrepreneurs Lennart Björk, Klas Käll and Staffan Wittmark are Gant’s three main shareholders, with about 37 percent of the company split among them.

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