NEW YORK — While many clothing designers have expanded into home goods in recent years, Stacy Haase is doing the reverse.
Haase, an 18-year veteran in the design industry and well known in the home furnishings business, is now delving into fashion.
After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, Haase worked as a graphic designer in an advertising agency before moving to Zurich, where she started painting to pass the time since she didn’t have a work visa. A friend and Globus employee saw her paintings and recruited her to work in the company’s design department. When she moved back to New York from Europe, she set up her own product design company, trying her hand at bed linens and other categories.
She has worked extensively with Homestead Fabrics for the past fiveyears, designing bedding and home furnishings for its private label, as well as for fashion designers whom she declined to name. Her expertise has helped make Homestead Fabrics a $120 million company, said David Greenstein, chairman. The company is so confident in her skills that it has orchestrated and is financing her venture into apparel.
Greenstein was confident that her critical eye would translate to apparel and he was also struck by the number of people who always commented on her outfits during their business trips in various places around the country.
“Getting into fashion wasn’t my idea, it was David’s,” Haase said. “Once I started doing it I loved it, but I was really worried about it [initially.] I’d been a textile and dinnerware designer.”
After six months of Greenstein badgering her about starting an apparel business, she made a bet with Greenstein and agreed to do it if her close friend didn’t laugh at the idea over a drink. Haase was convinced her friend would and was floored when the response was enthusiastic. “I always thought she would laugh, so I got stuck,” Haase shrugged.
But Greenstein is determined to make the business profitable. First-year projected wholesale volume is between $1 million and $1.5 million, he said. Accustomed to working with retailers that “do not tolerate” any late deliveries, he said he plans to maintain that criteria for the apparel business, regardless of what some Seventh Avenue companies do. He has hired David Didio as a consultant to focus on merchandising and marketing.“We’re going to make money and put some money back into the business,” Greenstein said. “I don’t tolerate not making money.”
Among the key looks in the collection are low-rise trousers, an optical print silk dress, high-neck coats, skirts with zippered side slits and a mohair funnel-neck sweater that can be worn as a hood. The line wholesales for $250 to $1,200. Hints of her training are evident in the details, such as a coat lining with a pale pink pom-pom pattern set against a celadon green background, or blazers with exterior buttons and interior snap closures.
“I like all the small touches that make you feel someone cared about that garment,” Haase said.
More than anything, the designer was concerned that the clothes feel good.
“It doesn’t matter how good something looks,” she said, “if you don’t feel good in it, it can’t work. I want people to feel confident and to have a good time.”
A native New Yorker, Haase made sure each item in her collection was made to easily get in and out of taxis. She is hopeful the “eclectic” collection will inspire women to mix and match items, such as black biker pants with a tailored jacket.
“The collection allows you to play a lot and explore different moods,” Haase said. “There are clothes for dropping off your kids at school, and going to the office or to take in a child’s quick music class.”
The collection is aimed at better-end specialty stores. It will also debut at the first Stacy Haase store, a 2,000-square-foot showcase for her signature apparel and home furnishings, as well as accessories and gift items from other companies, that is scheduled to open in a yet-to-be-determined downtown location in September. Three other units should bow in other cities in the next 18 months, Greenstein said.
“We want the store to be really fun and approachable,” Haase added. “Too many retail stores have become too serious. You feel like you have to speak in hushed tones and ask permission to try things on. We want this to be a place where people will spend some time in.”— R.F.
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