By  on September 8, 2005

NEW YORK — Catherine Malandrino wants to show her other side.

The designer, who launched her namesake contemporary collection in 1998, is embarking on several initiatives, including putting the spotlight on her designer-level Malandrino line, launching Malandrino footwear, opening her first boutique in Paris and designing a hotel in Florence.

Where once the designer used the runway to showcase her contemporary Catherine Malandrino collection, she decided this season to change strategy and is presenting Malandrino instead. She started the more upscale line two years ago with 15 pieces, but it has since grown into a complete collection with up to 100 styles a season, available in the designer's four freestanding boutiques and select specialty stores worldwide. Malandrino is more tailored than its contemporary counterpart. The idea came to her when the designer was looking to create unique and handcrafted silhouettes, in fabrics such as silk taffeta, linen cotton blends, cotton voiles, organzas and jacquards.

"[Malandrino is] the most focused part of my whole work," the designer said of her decision to show it on the runway. "I can really achieve the feeling of tradition and innovation in clothes."

Malandrino wholesales from about $250 for blouses and T-shirts to $5,000 for hand-embroidered coats. To better serve the Malandrino collection, the company this week opened a new showroom at 30 West 57th Street. Ellegi is the distributor for the line and Alessandra Volpi will handle its sales. "The Malandrino showroom has been designed to fit the Malandrino concept with silver polished walls and furniture by Christophe Pillet," she said. "It looks like a living room, very cozy and homey."

The designer, who projects retail sales of $60 million in 2006 for her overall business, declined to give projections for Malandrino, but said: "We want to keep it exclusively distributed. In the first year, we hope to have it in 30 to 50 doors."

By comparison, the contemporary Catherine Malandrino collection is available in 250 doors such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. It wholesales from $120 to $500, and will be presented to buyers by appointment in the Catherine Malandrino showroom at 275 West 39th Street.

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