By  on January 14, 2002

NEW YORK -- Manuel Canovas, the French maker of textiles, printed swimwear, accessories and sportswear, will introduce its first line of lingerie in July.

Slated for distribution for spring 2003, the collection also will be unveiled here at the Manuel Canovas showroom at 530 Seventh Avenue and at the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 Lyon, Mode City trade show in Lyon, France.

A first-year sales volume and price points were not available, but Patricia Ratut, the U.S. representative for the Paris-based firm, said suggested retail prices will be in the same realm as the swimwear collection, which averages $200 for a swimsuit.

The Canovas company, which was founded in Paris in 1963, was acquired by British textile firm Colefax and Fowler Group PLC in 1998 for $6.7 million. At the time, combined wholesale annual sales of Canovas products -- excluding sportswear, which was introduced this past July -- was $22 million, and the parent company's overall revenues were $83 million. The accessories line of casual shoes, handbags and scented candles was introduced five years ago. The firm expanded into swimwear and beach-related items in 1992.

Ratut said the Canovas business has grown "substantially" over the past three years, and distribution in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean is now handled through the New York showroom.

The lingerie collection will be part of the accessories division and will consist of 25 styles of daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear items, a majority of which will be dual-purpose and can be worn as ready-to-wear. There also will be a variety of cropped tops. Fabrics will include microfibers, Lycra spandex blends and voile crepe.

Ratut said prints in the lingerie collection will be different from the swimwear line, with the exception of a toile pattern of an Asian garden that was among the first prints created by designer Manuel Canovas, who has since retired.

"The prints represent a romantic way of life," Ratut said. "The lingerie will definitely have the signature look."

Distribution will be aimed at upscale specialty stores and smaller specialty operations that already sell Manuel Canovas products, as well as lingerie boutiques. Additionally, Manuel Canovas merchandise is sold at a freestanding Manuel Canovas shop in St. Barts in the Caribbean, and at Angela Moore, a specialty shop that opened in Palm Beach, Fla., in November.Ratut said the Manuel Canovas customer is "a woman who is very well traveled and suddenly wants to make a difference. She doesn't want to wear what everybody next door is wearing. She could be a hostess in Beverly Hills who organizes and throws chic pool parties."

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