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NEW YORK — Jones Apparel Group now has its new better baby.

The Jones New York Signature better-priced line bowed Monday, entering a segment of the market that had been sleepy, but is now waking up with a slew of new and revamped lines from various manufacturers.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Adding a little extra spice, Claudia Schiffer, who is more often associated with Guess or Versace, will appear as the face of Signature in the line’s advertising campaign.

“We see this as a lifestyle brand bridging the gap between Jones New York Collection, which is really true career, and Jones New York Sport, which is very true casual, key items and related separates,” said Susan Metzger, president of the Signature brand, in an interview Monday at the line’s 1411 Broadway showroom here.

“If traditional is middle of the road, than Signature will steer a little bit to the left. It will be a little bit more updated. It’s getting away from what real traditional is and just giving it enough spin that it’s becoming what we have called new classics. We will build this line with a more relaxed jacket sensibility and certainly will never be a strictly career line, as Jones New York Collection is the leading brand in those classifications.”

Signature is an opportunity for Jones to operate in this portion of the better zone with offerings under its own name. It’s also an effort to recoup some of the $548 million of revenue lost when the Lauren by Ralph Lauren label reverted back to Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. in June amid a flurry of legal actions.

Jones is looking for Signature to produce a volume of at least $200 million next year. It will launch in February in 700 misses’ doors, while 200 to 250 doors will carry special sizes from the brand.

During the interview, Metzger was called away briefly and, working on her feet, called across the showroom that if there is anything that defines her team it is that “they can turn on a dime.”

And that’s exactly what they have done.

The same group of people who launched and produced the Lauren collection until the license transferred put together Signature. They were able, though, to do some advance work on the line as the Lauren storm was brewing. Still, it’s been a summer of long nights and no vacations.

Metzger said, “We’ve all obviously been very excited from the start, knowing that we can now control our own destiny and that this brand and our company can carry the Jones New York brand to another level.”

Signature is planned to be a cornerstone for the firm, which last year had total revenues of $4.34 billion, 37.7 percent of which came from the sale of better apparel.

Chief executive officer Peter Boneparth said, “We have enormous brand equity that, as a company, we underinvested in and we’re dramatically changing that and I think overinvesting over the next couple of years.”

The quality and the fit of the Signature line will be consistent with the Lauren line Jones had been producing, but prices will be about 15 percent lower. The average retail price for the line is roughly $68.

“There’s no question that by having this team build, since 1996, the Lauren brand as it was known, we had a lot of experience and a lot of history, a lot of sales information,” said Metzger.

Stacy Lastrina, Jones’ senior vice president of corporate marketing, said the expansion of the Jones New York brand would stay true to the consumer’s understanding of the brand’s classic sensibility.

“As long as you stay within your brand promise, you don’t run the risk of growing to the point where you hurt your [brand] equity,” said Lastrina.

Each layer of the Jones New York brand will have a distinctive ad campaign.

Signature will be supported by national and regional advertising, as well as grassroots and event-based marketing and promotions.

The campaign with Schiffer will bow in March magazines such as Vogue and In Style and will show the supermodel in a timeless, classic environment. Watercolor artwork also will be a hallmark of the marketing push, which will come with the “What’s Your Signature Style?” tag line.

Also making the scene in better this spring will be Liz Claiborne Inc.’s new line Realities, a new Calvin Klein line from Kellwood and Tommy Hilfiger Corp.’s revamped H collection.

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