NEW YORK — J.H. Collectibles will return to retail shelves this spring after a six-year hiatus and in its new incarnation at Liz Claiborne Inc., the line has matured along with its customers.
The collection is brighter and more relaxed than its previous career life. At a preview of the line at the company’s showroom at 1441 Broadway here, Denise Johnston, president of J.H. Collectibles, said: "It’s all about being modern and versatile."
The relaunched and redesigned J.H. Collectibles will be in about 584 retail doors, with the goal of making it a leader in the moderate-priced, soft-dressing category. The line is geared toward women 35 to 65 years old, roughly the same customer who wore the brand during its heyday in the Eighties and Nineties. But this time around, Johnston said, it has come back with a more casual spirit that will accommodate that woman’s fast-paced lifestyle.
"The core customer is probably 40 years and up; however, it has a broad appeal — it’s more of a mind-set," said Johnston. "Yet the focus is on Middle America, and this is a very clean way of dressing. This customer wants to look put together, but everything has to have multiuse with a relaxed fit. As women age, comfort becomes even more important as opposed to catching the latest style."
The spring collection is spread over about 120 pieces, featuring bright colors in easy-to-assemble, two-piece combinations like boxy sheer shirts that can be worn as loose jackets paired with flat-front pants, and sheath dresses and soft sweaters. Elastic waistbands and multiple-length pants — from cropped to full —?are included to meet various preferences. Novelty yarns, linen-rayon blends and georgette prints dominate the collection. The line will wholesale from $10 to $35.
Sizes will be available in misses’ 6 to 18 and women’s 16 to 24. The label has been updated from its former black-and-white visage, and is now blue with "J.H. Collectibles" written in white.
Designer Trish Robinson said the focus is simple: "It’s all about easy dressing so it can accommodate a variety of women — all different sizes."
Liz Claiborne acquired the trademarks for J.H. Collectibles — once a powerhouse in the better market with annual sales of $100 million — in 1997 at a bankruptcy auction. Claiborne executives declined to give a first-year sales projection.The revived brand is designed to complement the company’s Emma James business, which is more tailored and structured, said Helen McCluskey, president of Claiborne’s Special Markets unit. She added: "We are always looking for brands that can extend themselves."
Liz Haesler, senior vice president of ready-to-wear and intimates at Marshall Field’s, lauded the line for its novel, relaxed looks and said it will likely replace one of the stores’ proprietary brands.
"It’s very salable," said Haesler, adding that J.H. Collectibles will be carried in all 60 Marshall Field’s stores in misses’ and plus sizes. "There’s a level of novelty on every piece, whether it’s beading, color accents or detailing. And the fact that the line is completely relaxed is very important to our guests now."
Haesler said she was also impressed by the price. "I was blown away that they have packed a ton of value into that product for the consumer. It’s very tasteful — a lot of moderate product looks moderate and this doesn’t at all."
Color and the put-together ensembles is what Kathy Pickering, general merchandise manager at Rich’s/Lazarus/Goldsmith’s, liked, saying these are the kinds of looks her consumers in the South gravitate toward.
"It’s not specifically casual or career, so it has a wide variety of uses," she added. "The other compelling reason is the distribution. We are trying desperately to grow business in the moderate area with department store-only distribution. This gives the customers a reason to shop."
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