By  on November 21, 2007

NEW YORK — Jones Apparel Group is saying goodbye to the Anne Klein designer collection and its creative director, Isabel Toledo.

On Tuesday, the apparel conglomerate said it was pulling the plug on the collection after just two seasons to focus on growing the bridge Anne Klein New York and better-priced AK Anne Klein collections.

The move signals a major reversal of strategy for Jones, which launched the designer collection with much fanfare in February for fall retailing. While the upscale line was never viewed as a volume business for Jones, it nevertheless promised to set a much-needed new tone for the brand and serve as a halo for the other divisions.

Toledo's efforts were praised by the fashion press and opened up new retail opportunities for Anne Klein in stores such as Barneys New York (which Jones sold to Dubai investment firm Istithmar for $942.3 million in September), Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, as well as specialty store Ikram in Chicago. Resort, which typically hits stores next month, will be the last shipment. The spring season, which was shown on the runway during New York Fashion Week in February, will not be produced.

The move is likely to send shock waves through the industry, since Toledo and her illustrator-husband, Ruben, are well liked and highly respected for their creativity.

Jones' choice to shutter the collection business also underscores the growing challenges of launching a designer brand with costly runway shows and marketing campaigns in today's tough retail climate.

Toledo is expected to help wind down the designer business and remain on board until her contract ends. While Jones executives declined to disclose details of Toledo's contract, a source close to the company estimated that she was contracted to stay on for approximately one more year.

"We appreciate all that Isabel has done for the Anne Klein brand through her creative direction and her vision of the Anne Klein woman," said Wesley R. Card, Jones' president and chief executive officer. "Anne Klein is perfectly suited for today's environment, and that's why we continue to focus on Anne Klein's better and bridge lines, as well as footwear, handbags and accessories."

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