J Brand Co-Founder Launches Jersey Dresses

Susie Crippen, co-founder of the J Brand premium denim label, is shifting to dresses.

LOS ANGELES — Susie Crippen, co-founder of the J Brand premium denim label, is shifting to dresses.

Three years after scoring with J Brand’s dark skinny jeans, Crippen is aiming for clean, classic design in the dress market with a jersey line called Riller & Fount.

Riller & Fount launched five styles for holiday selling at Web retailer RevolveClothing.com and expanded to a dozen looks for spring. They include a tank dress that clings to the body on skinny spaghetti straps, a V-neck number spruced up with a fitted skirt and billowing bodice and a feminine frock that draws attention to the waist with four discreet pleats on the belt line. Wholesale prices range from $50 to $78.

“We wanted to create a dress line that women will live in and feel comfortable in and feel sexy in,” Crippen said.

She named the Los Angeles-based brand after children’s names she found on an antique quilt. Crippen said she hoped the androgynous moniker could grow with the brand as it eventually evolves into men’s wear and other fabrications in addition to Modal jersey. Acknowledging that other designers, including Rachel Pally and Pegah Anvarian, already have created thriving businesses out of jersey, Crippen added: “Ours is different because our designs are a lot more classic.”

As she did at Los Angeles-based J Brand by teaming with denim veteran Jeff Rudes, former wardrobe stylist Crippen is relying on another partner at Riller & Fount to help her iron out the kinks with patterns and samples. Marlena Ruiz, a restaurateur-turned-T-shirt-designer, has spent two years designing tops of Modal jersey at her label, called n.fem.

Although the inaugural collection’s palette veered to dark tints such as chocolate, charcoal and black, the spring colors lighten up in hues such as adobe, fern, lapis and plum. Each dress is available in two lengths to suit shoppers’ preference: a mini whose hemline grazes the thigh and a demure version that falls below the knee. The short styles also can double as tunic-like tops to wear with jeans, whether or not they are J Brand, Crippen said.

Prints pose no option because both Crippen and Ruiz never wear them.

This story first appeared in the November 28, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“What we really wanted to create for this line was a dress you can wear two to three times a week and no one would ever know,” Crippen said. “They just know you look good.”