NEW YORK — Realities, Liz Claiborne’s new better line, is meant to be extremely simple.
“What I wanted to do was something that was modern and simple and clean, but in a kind of soft way,” said creative director Richard Ostell.
Ostell hails from England’s Lake District and was a principal of the London design duo Flyte Ostell, which took off in the early Nineties and sold to such stores as Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue. But the company shuttered its operations at the end of 1996 and Ostell became creative director for Nicole Farhi.
Realities has been a whirlwind for the designer, who finished interviewing for the position at the end of June in London and was rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work in New York just days later.
The line, set to launch next week at the Bryant Park Hotel, is sprinkled with men’s wear influences and bespoke details. The tailored look, which now defines the line, will be expanded on in future seasons to make for a more lifestyle-like feel.
While samples were not ready last week, Ostell described looks and showed sketches that drew a casual femininity out of tailored men’s suits.
The collection’s pieces include a long jacket with no buttons and the collar permanently turned up; a jacket with real button holes on the cuffs in a Savile Row touch; a skirt with a button fly and belt loops; slouchy as well as cropped, narrow pants, and silk knits. Mostly natural fabrics will be used.
Jackets will retail at between $198 and $350, while pants will go for between $118 and $198.
The color palette for the line includes lots of black, dirty pinks and stone.
“The anchor will be the neutrals and black and then we’ll build the colors each season, but we’re never going to do real bright, neon brights or anything; it’s always going to be quite played down,” said Ostell.
“What we want to do is add all these little signature details to the collection, so it doesn’t scream at you,” he continued. “It’s not obvious. It has lot of little details that add value. Something a little bit special.”Tying the brand’s various components together will be a polkadot motif that will show up in places like sleeve linings and packaging, but will never appear externally on garments in the collection.
Claiborne has strived to make Realities as straightforward as possible in all regards. There are six styles of fixturing, everything is designed to fixture, there are four key classes (pants, jackets, shirts and blouses and knits), three price structures per class and three fits, tentatively named close, easy and loose.
“We’re trying to think of the best, newest, quickest, most consumer-responsive way of doing everything,” said Ostell. The collection will start out with about 80 pieces.
“For a long time, designers have dictated to people about what they should wear and how they should look and I think a lot of it is totally unrealistic and I’m very much into real clothes,” the designer said. “There’s no reason why real clothes can’t be exciting and interesting and have value. People’s lives aren’t the same as they were in the 1950s, but designers are still showing collections in the same way. We need to be faster and quicker and more responsive.”
Claiborne, in a drive to be more user-friendly, will offer stores a variety of options to market the brand. Those opting for the in-store shop will get unfinished slate floors with fixtures made of unfinished oak and dull, gray metal and complementary tables for stacks of shirts.
Realities will not have a fixed showroom, nor will it be shown on a fixed schedule. Instead, Claiborne will show the line to retailers as is deemed necessary and possibly more often than is usual.
Executive vice president Angela Ahrendts noted: “Anything that does not add value to the consumer is not in this brand. We have not gone out and built a million-dollar showroom for this brand.
“Rather than hanging all this stuff and having smoke and mirrors in this beautiful showroom, we’re showing it in a hotel suite on the fixtures,” she continued.
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