By  on June 16, 2005

NEW YORK — The Lauren by Ralph Lauren label has stretched into the athletic arena with Lauren Active, a line that melds fashion and function.

The better-priced division of Polo Ralph Lauren began rolling out the line at stores this spring, and it will be expanded for fall with a wider selection of products and broader distribution, said Kim Roy, president of Lauren by Ralph Lauren.

"Many people were asking for something like this from us," said Roy in an interview at the Lauren showroom at 550 Seventh Avenue here. "We had focus groups with our customers and they were very vocal about wanting this type of product."

The collection fuses performance fabrics with lifestyle styling and fashion direction from the core Lauren sportswear line, she noted. The active line is initially focused on four athletic categories: golf, tennis, fitness and spa-yoga.

The new cruise items for Lauren Active have a nautical feel with blue and white colorways, and include merchandise such as cotton tennis skirts, seamless camisoles and knit track jackets, as well as terry cloth hooded jackets, polyester microfiber pants and cable sweaters. There are also cotton jersey tops and yoga pants made of cotton and spandex. Many of the pieces have performance elements, such as mesh pockets in the jackets and fabrics with wicking properties.

"The design is rooted in classic American design, but has a modern and fresh appeal," Roy said.

Wholesale prices for Lauren Active range from about $15 to $70, Roy said. She noted the line has a separate logo from the core Lauren line. While she declined to give sales projections, sources estimate Active could rack up retail sales of about $30 million in its first year.

The line targets the same customers as the Lauren better-priced sportswear collection. In some stores, Lauren Active is sold alongside the core line, but with its own visual displays and hang tags, while in other retailers, such as Nordstrom, the collection is housed in the active department.

Bloomingdale's and Marshall Field's are among the other stores that are carrying the line this season. It launched initially in about 100 doors and will grow to 150 doors for fall, said Roy, who noted the line is sold on the Web site as well. She said the company feels Lauren Active could eventually be in about 300 to 400 doors. The line is sold in 20 Nordstrom stores, said Tonja Kuntz, Nordstrom's corporate merchandise manager for women's activewear. "Customers want apparel they can wear for nearly all aspects of their lives," said Kuntz. "This makes this an appealing category for designers to play in."

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