By  on March 24, 2005

NEW YORK — When Jones Texas Inc. acquired GM Design Group last August, chairman and chief executive officer Edward M. Jones 3rd saw an opportunity to build GM’s three existing brands: Garfield & Marks, Options and Womyn.

He didn’t imagine the process would result in two more collections to complement the brand’s portfolio. But that’s what happened when the GM design team let loose its creativity, coming up with hundreds of sketches to merit new lines Range93 and iAlex — Alex Garfield.

“When we closed [the GM deal] at the end of August, we were 75 percent through the design phase of fall ’05,” Jones said. “I knew the product line was not the product line for the future, so we pulled together quickly and tried to pinpoint what was wrong. We knew we had to reinvent ourselves. We identified the brands that needed to be tweaked and we have extended the two lines.”

Jones knows about brand-building. He cofounded the retail and brand consulting firm Jones Texas in 1988, working with brands such as Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein Home. He was also a principal shareholder in Sigrid Olsen and oversaw its growth and repositioning into a multisegmented brand before selling it to Liz Claiborne in 1999. Earlier, he was president of Esprit de Corp.

At GM, he suggested revamping the existing lines, adding more items and contemporary looks to make them relevant to today’s bridge and contemporary departments.

“The bridge business is not what it used to be,” Jones said. “The paradigm opened so much. Bridge was always dressy, and now there is an influence of contemporary into bridge. I don’t think the term bridge applies anymore.”

Jones brought back Alex Garfield, who founded the company with Bernie Marks in 1993, but left after selling a controlling stake to the Leiber Group, then the Pegasus Apparel Group, in the late Nineties. Along with Garfield, who serves as vice chairman, the executive team includes president David Rosenzweig.

Garfield & Marks was considered a suit and pants resource known for its signature rib triacetate, so the team started adding items and extending the fabric palette with wool blends, cotton and cashmere.“It was a tight formula for merchandising,” Jones conceded. “It was a suit, a jacket and a skirt. We had a strong business, but hadn’t grown with [the customer]. Our whole formula now is no-rules. It’s gone beyond a tailored business. We developed a full collection, adding sweaters and knitwear.”

As part of its repositioning, the company worked with advertising agency Kraftworks here to develop the brand, its logos and signs. The first thing to go was the ampersand: Beginning in the fall, it will be marketed as GarfieldMarks.

“We didn’t want to lose the Marks but by losing the ampersand, it made perfect sense as a modern brand,” Rosenzweig said.

GarfieldMarks targets modern bridge departments in specialty and department stores. Key looks include a Venetian cotton and polyester jacquard jacket with a wired collar; a viscose, wool and Lycra blend gray suit with a lavender pinstripe, and lavender cashmere sweaters and light wool pants. Wholesale prices range from $60 to $400.

Womyn, meanwhile, picks up on sportswear trends, including denim pants, loosely tailored velvet jackets and cashmere angora and nylon cable-knit sweaters. Wholesale prices range from $35 to $250.

Options, from $50 to $250 wholesale, offers a more refined take on casual looks, and key pieces include chunky wool herringbone jackets and paisley-print jeans.

The new Range93, based on the year the company was founded, wholesales from $69 to $350 and is positioned between designer and contemporary. It includes vintage-inspired pieces such as velvet jackets, sleeveless cashmere knitted tops and cuffed cropped pants.

IAlex — Alex Garfield, meanwhile, is GM’s most directional line, with fabrics that hardly crease. Looks include a charcoal wool and Lycra suit and a polyester and spandex suit with tab pockets. It wholesales for $86 to $210. “I always carry around an iPod, and that’s where the name came from,” Garfield said.

Jones declined to disclose sales for each of the lines. Market sources estimate GarfieldMarks to generate wholesale volume of $50 million this year, Womyn, $25 to $30 million, and Options, $10 to $15 million. “We will be growing the company over time,” Jones said. “We would like to be to the smaller and middle market what a Liz Claiborne is to the larger market. We want to hunt for small to mid-market great brand opportunities.”

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