By  on May 25, 1994

NEW YORK -- Lizwear, the casual weekend wear division of Liz Claiborne, is charting a new course -- steered by denim. The nine-year-old denim division had moved away from its own identity recently, veering into other casual apparel.

While Claiborne officials declined to reveal specific figures for the Lizwear division, it is part of Claiborne's giant sportswear group whose sales last year dropped to $1.1 billion from $1.2 billion in 1992. One of the key strategies to turn the business around, the company has stated, is to make a clearer distinction among the three sportswear divisions -- Collection, Lizwear and Lizsport.

Maxine Forman, who joined Claiborne last September as head of Lizwear, said one of her jobs is to clear up what exactly Lizwear is.

"When Lizwear first started, it was strictly denim," she said. "The company started to put some tops with it, and suddenly it became its own division. It started to take a casual twist, and then it ran into Lizsport. There started to be some crossover between the two divisions. So the company decided Lizwear needed to be more pure."

One of the identifying characteristics of Lizwear was its heavy denim dependence; Forman has moved the line back in that direction -- with a vengeance.

"Lizwear has always been in denim, but never in as substantial a way as it will be, starting in June," said Forman. "That's going to be a very, very, very big part of this line. We've always run a five-pocket and a tailored jean with an angled side seam, but now we're going to be a jeans business. You have designer people, and then you have volume-oriented people. We're right in the middle with The Gap, but The Gap doesn't cater to the missy woman."

The three styles that will be the core of Lizwear are: a five-pocket jean; a "lean jean" style with an angled side seam, and a relaxed fit tailored jean with pleats. These will be on a Quick Response system with some retailers so that, as Forman said, "stores can get them from 10 days to two weeks."

"We've taken a huge position on fabric and production," she added. "We were very aggressive in our plans, and stores are responding."

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