By  on May 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Hanes Hosiery has taken on a touch of whimsy since joining forces with designer Eric Smith and his line of men's and women's casual socks and tights, called E.G. Smith.

In what the parties call a "partnership" venture that was announced early this year, Hanes is handling the production, marketing and distribution for Smith. This month, the first line under this arrangement was introduced.

The launch includes a new showroom for Smith, sited within the Hanes facilities at 1675 Broadway, at West 51st Street, and new packaging. The ceiling of the showroom is decorated with blue and white fabric swags to evoke sky and clouds, and fixtures -- as well as the new packaging -- feature the new logo, which says, "E. Magination."

The line, ranging in per-dozen price from $29.40 for opaque trouser socks to $91.80 for colorblock tights, includes a wider range of fabrications and, with 45 styles, is about four times larger than it was, according to Smith.

"The casual trend is not going away, and Hanes wants to be part of it," said Debbie Hobbs, vice president of Hanes. "We want to develop a larger casual business. If Eric Smith were a sheer designer, working with him would not have been as attractive."

Hobbs would not divulge volume projections. Smith has stated in the past that his annual volume ran around $5 million, including overseas business.

Highlights of the line include colorblock tights done in a heavy, sweater weight; tights giving the illusion of sheer and opaque stripes, and a mini-check pattern in tights and knee socks. The heavy boot socks and vibrant color palette that have been Smith's trademark are still staples in the collection.

"Working with Hanes has allowed me access to production facilities that allow the line to be both price competitive and different," said Smith. "Before, I couldn't make products such as basic opaques because the volumes weren't great enough for the large manufacturers. Now, I can address a basic fashion business and still retain the individuality that the brand is known for."

Distribution for the line will remain with better department and specialty stores, said Hobbs.

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