By  on August 23, 2007

NEW YORK — When retailers started asking Imitation of Christ's Tara Subkoff to come up with a diffusion line, she knew she couldn't do it on her own.

During her quest to find a partner, she met with Josh Sparks and knew she had met her match. Sparks, former chief executive officer of the Sydney-based Sass & Bide, was clearly suited to help start the new line, simply called Imitation.

"Working with Josh instills me with absolute confidence that he is the right person to inherit this opportunity, and bring this company to the next level," she said.

Imitation, which will launch in the spring after a small capsule collection in stores for fall, is in Sparks' hands. In fact, Subkoff has removed herself completely from Imitation and is not involved in the design or production of the label.

"Tara approached me late last year and we initially discussed her desire to find a partner or to sell the Imitation of Christ brand," Sparks explained. "We came to a conclusion that the best thing to do was to launch a contemporary collection and free her up to concentrate on Imitation of Christ, which would be the higher-end line."

So Sparks took the reigns, purchased the Imitation name from Subkoff and hired designer Kasia Bilinski, who had worked in design for such labels as Tse, Richard Chai, ThreeAsFour and Naum. Based here at 336 West 36th Street, Sparks said Imitation is very different from the IOC collection designed by Subkoff.

"I'd like to maintain IOC's penchant for the innovative and the avant-garde, but with an emphasis on accessibility and wearability," he said. "IOC has that vintage inspiration. Imitation will have that, but it will be stripped back with a more modern edge."

Sparks said the idea was to create a collection of clothing that moves away from decoration and embellishments in order to focus on quality fabrics made from Italian silks, angora and lightweight wool. He also said a strong design focus was put into the lines and carefully placed seams to create a flattering fit.

"I want people to see the design of the garment, rather than the embellishments," he said. "This is meant to be an accessible luxury brand. It's beautifully designed, but at a price people can afford."The line, which includes tunics, T-shirts, shorts, dresses and skirts, comes in a range of earth tones from beige, charcoal, ivory and sand. Each piece is meant to be layered or worn in various ways, such as with the buttoned vest that can be wrapped around as a skirt. The line wholesales from $55 to $190.

The capsule collection will be available at such retailers as Fred Segal Flair and Satine in Los Angeles, Joan Shepp in Philadelphia and Kirna Zabête here. Sparks said he hopes to get the spring collection into more high-end specialty stores on a global scale. He expects to reach $4.5 million in wholesale volume for the first year, and plans to reach $25 million within three to five years.

"We have the supply chain to handle growth, but we want this to be a careful rollout and focus on growing a global contemporary brand," Sparks said.

Sarah Easley, co-owner of Kirna Zabête, said she looks forward to selling Imitation this fall.

"Fashion is really fun when you can layer in lots of pieces," she said. "What I love about Imitation is that you can experiment with the textures and the shapes. It's a chic layering look. I also love that the line works so well with some of our higher-end lines, which is the bulk of what we sell. I can easily see someone layering a piece from Imitation with Lutz & Patmos or Balenciaga."

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