NEW YORK — For new brands entering the U.S. market at a troubled time for the apparel industry, which is barely sustaining a glut of designer labels, one key factor to stand out has been building a reputation for price.

Two new collections to target American stores — Sonia by Sonia Rykiel and Liliu — have arrived with vastly different looks, yet a strong response from stores based on the quality of product for the price.

Liliu carries the look of a traditional ready-to-wear collection into a cost-conscious area of the bridge market, offering what stores have described as strong value for fabrics and workmanship. Sonia is taking a more modern fashion approach to the signature looks of designer Sonia Rykiel, making them more accessible through key specialty store accounts.

Here’s a look at the two lines:

Sonia by Sonia Rykiel

Since Sonia Rykiel exported her diffusion collection, Sonia, billed as the signature line’s “smart little sister,” last fall to test the U.S. market, the response from American stores such as Dernier Cri and White Trash Charm has been so strong that the company plans to expand its presence here this year and introduce related Sonia Rykiel products.

The company expects to hit $5 million in Sonia wholesale volume within the next three years, representing 20 percent of its overall sales in the U.S. by 2006, said Pierre Moise, president of Sonia Rykiel Inc. The Sonia collection was launched three years ago in Europe and also was introduced in Sonia Rykiel’s store that opened in the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, Fla., last year.

The distribution of the line, which wholesales for $100 to $125 for most items, although some jackets are priced to retail around $500, will remain selective and limited through accounts such as Diavolina and Madison in Los Angeles and Nordstrom’s Via C in select doors.

“We believe that the collection is so strong that it speaks for itself and reinforces the existing signature Sonia Rykiel presence nationwide,” Moise said.

In addition to Rykiel’s four existing U.S. stores, Moise said new locations will open in 2005 and 2006, with dedicated space for Sonia built into the future retail strategy. The company also plans to bring its Rykiel Homme and SR Home collections to the U.S. in the near future.


Harald Folke Jonassen, the man behind the popular bridge label Flora Kung, which played a major role in the development of the bridge market in the Eighties, has returned to Seventh Avenue with a new collection called Liliu.

Although he retired in 1988 after selling Flora Kung, Jonassen eventually was recruited by businessmen looking to develop Russia’s emerging apparel market shortly thereafter. He spent the past decade developing the brand Disegni in Moscow and St. Petersburg. His latest venture is even more global in scale.

Named after Jonassen’s adopted daughter, Liliu will launch for fall with offices at 530 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, as well as in Seoul, South Korea, and St. Petersburg. Jane Joung, who created the Disegni collection, is designing the collection in South Korea and producing it there and in Italy, a combination she said will afford the company the ability to incorporate both fine fabrics with reasonable prices.

Liliu is targeting an emerging category between the traditional bridge concept and what has emerged as “gold.” A white alpaca coat, for instance, is priced to wholesale for $466, silk and cotton dresses cost about $179 and an ivory silk tuxedo jacket sells for $189.

“This is driven by two things — the fabrics and the looks that we want,” Jonassen said. “There are few people in this niche.”

The response has been strong, with orders from Saks Fifth Avenue and several specialty stores that are quickly approaching $1 million in its first season.

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