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Holly Morgan Tackles Contemporary

For her new namesake contemporary line, Holly Morgan is adopting fresh strategies to appeal to a different customer from the one she designed for at junior sportswear brand XOXO.

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For her new namesake contemporary line, Holly Morgan is adopting fresh strategies to appeal to a different customer from the one she designed for at junior sportswear brand XOXO.

Morgan is specializing in better fabrics such as silk charmeuse and chiffon, keeping her production local and focusing on the needs of busy career women instead of fast-turning trends.

Seven years after leaving XOXO, which she coowned with her then-husband Gregg Fiene, Morgan professes to design for women like her, a working mother of three preteen boys, who is also a contemporary customer.

Her looks include flirty minidresses with tiered hems, double-breasted vests, cuffed trousers and sleek blouses that are stylish options to wear to the office because of their vibrant jewel tones and details such as tab buttons and neck bows.

“My last question before I finish anything is: ‘Would I buy this?’” said Morgan, 37, who reclaimed her maiden name after divorcing Fiene. “I don’t want to have my hair pulled back in a ponytail and wear a sweatsuit everyday. I work and I travel. I need things that I can dress up and dress down.”

Morgan, chief executive officer and head designer at Torrance, Calif.-based Holly Morgan Designs, oversees seven employees. Her new venture, started 11 months ago, is a culmination of her experience. At XOXO, she also designed an offshoot contemporary brand called Lola. She later worked at junior brand Rampage and owned a contemporary boutique called Chantal in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Because of Holly Morgan Designs’ small size, Morgan is involved in every aspect of the business, and doesn’t hesitate to take on tasks such as packing and shipping boxes. Her business partner is Timothy Barone, an entrepreneur who built his fortune in finance, technology and real estate. Barone and Morgan hold equal stakes in the company. Morgan is making key decisions because Barone has no experience in the apparel industry, and the start-up is trying to establish itself in a weak economy.

“To my benefit, I produce everything in L.A.,” Morgan said. “I don’t have high minimums. I work closer to delivery than other vendors.”

Morgan noted that she can produce as few as 20 pieces and deliver them within four weeks of taking an order. She also concentrated on catering to specialty stores by filling the void on their sales floor. Though Morgan offered only dresses in her first collection, she later added tops, responding to the requests of buyers, and for the fall season included pants such as skinny styles, cigarette pants and wide-leg versions, all accentuated with vintage men’s wear fabric in the pocket linings and waistband binding.

Retailers who placed orders included Lisa Kline in Los Angeles, Fred Segal Fun in Santa Monica, Calif., and Dari in Studio City, Calif.

Wholesale prices start at $68 for tops, $98 for pants and $120 for dresses. Morgan’s goal is to reach $2 million in wholesale sales in the first year.

“That’s the key — not to have a one-hit wonder [and] just be aware of the cycle and what the consumer is buying and what’s in her closet already,” Morgan said.

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