By and  on February 28, 2008

Make no mistake, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is serious about fashion.

Norma Kamali will create an exclusive collection for the world's largest retailer in an agreement brokered by Cherokee Inc. The licensing deal is long term, and the designer will establish a lifestyle brand under her own name that will encompass categories such as women's wear, children's clothing, accessories, footwear and home — all at Wal-Mart's mass prices.

At a time when some retail chains are reconsidering the merits of long-term fashion lines by marquee designer names, Wal-Mart appears to be moving full-steam ahead with the concept. More deals are in the pipeline, sources said.

Kamali told WWD on Wednesday that she first met Wal-Mart executives two years ago, but nothing came of it until talks picked up again recently. She was intrigued by Wal-Mart's reach, which may enable her to have an impact in households across America.

"I saw this as an opportunity for me to put together a lot of the things I am personally interested in," said Kamali, who has been a proponent of wellness concepts and has incorporated them in her collections and at retail. "I feel that, at this point in my life, I have an opportunity to take all of the things that I like to do, and help women not just feel good, but also with their image and self-esteem. You have an environment where you can reach a lot of people."

Kamali said she always wanted to do a line at the mass level because "the balance is fantastic. There are always things you want to do at a great price and can't, because you don't have the volume."

The designer didn't disclose details about the collection, but said it will be centered around fashion essentials. "It's commodities that are appropriate for everybody's wardrobe," she said of the collection, which she chose to call Norma Kamali.

"It was my idea because it's my name," she said. "I am doing this, and I feel that it's something people should know I am doing. I will also carry it in my store, because I am proud of it."

Wal-Mart is "a very interesting situation and a new kind of venture for them and for me, and I like this new experience," Kamali said. "We are starting with women's and focusing on setting up an agenda for women's and take it from there. If it's something that fits the store and works, I have the opportunity to present whatever ideas I have."

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