By  on August 16, 2005

NEW YORK — Norma Kamali, who has mastered the art of parachute dressing and popularized sweatshirt fabrics for sportswear, is taking on the hot contemporary market.

Kamali has inked a licensing deal with activewear firm Jacques Moret for a contemporary sportswear collection in collaboration with Everlast. Moret also holds the master license for Everlast's women's apparel and the collection will carry the Norma Kamali and Everlast monikers.

Moret executives were looking for a way to extend Everlast beyond activewear, so they approached Kamali about the collaboration.

"We naturally thought of Norma Kamali," said Gary Herwitz, executive vice president at Jacques Moret. "We saw a vision and a connection between what she did in the Eighties and Everlast."

Herwitz and Kamali have known each other for 15 years — before joining Moret, Herwitz was an executive apparel accounting specialist at Mahoney Cohen & Co., where he did the designer's accounting.

Kamali agreed to do the collection after she combed contemporary departments at retail for research.

"My first inclination was to say no, but then I started to look through the stores and realized the timing for this type of a collection was perfect," Kamali said. "In the Eighties, I did the collection of sweatshirt clothes. It still has a life and I have seen it perpetuated in many other collections."

For design inspiration, Kamali culls from the sweats concept, which broke ground in the early Eighties and helped to revolutionize casual dressing. The designer recalled the inspiration for her first sweats line, which came to her while designing a swimwear collection in 1979.

"I bought some gray sweatshirt fabric because I swim a lot and I always put on a sweatshirt when I get out of the water," she said. "At the time, gray fleece was not really a happening fabric. I just started to make some swimwear cover-ups, then I made some jackets and then skirts, and it turned into this whole collection."

As for the nature of the collaboration with Everlast, Kamali said it will feature updated versions of her Eighties fleece looks, though with more textured fabrics.

The Norma Kamali and Everlast collection will launch at the Fashion Coterie trade show in New York next month for spring distribution. Betsee Isenberg, president of multiline showroom 10-Eleven, with branches in New York and Los Angeles, will represent the collection. Suggested retail prices will range from about $60 to about $600, and the collection will target better department and specialty stores. Herwitz declined to give sales projections, but market sources said a launch of this nature could have wholesale sales of between $8 million and $12 million in its first year.Herwitz said he anticipates product extensions for the line, though he couldn't disclose more details.

"We see it expanding into ancillary products that we would have rights for under our license with Everlast," he said.

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