By  on February 2, 1994

PARIS -- There's a new designer at Tehen, and she's determined to put some fun back into the French ready-to-wear resource.

Tehen, best known for its highly wearable knits, unveiled its fall-winter collection, and its first by designer Maria Cornejo, in Paris last weekend and will also show it at the Premier Collections and Fashion Coterie salons in New York this month.

"I think Tehen lost its identity for a while. It aged a bit. Now we want to revive it with a younger look. When fashion gets too serious, you stop selling fashion," said Cornejo, who began working on the collection in September. "Women don't want clothes that are too serious. Clothes are not things that they need, they have to be something they want."

Cornejo first rose to prominence in the mid-Eighties when she created the Richmond Cornejo line with John Richmond. She subsequently had her own line, which has been discontinued.

Prior to joining Tehen, Cornejo designed Jigsaw, a London-based line of designer basics, for three years.

"There's more liberty with your own collection, both in price and in the kind of fabrics you can afford to use. It's more arty and self-indulgent."

"Tehen, for instance, retails between $70 and $425. My own line sold for twice that. Tehen is also a lot more realistic. It has to be. We're talking about a collection that is 370 pieces including accessories," Cornejo said.

Tehen currently retails in 550 outlets worldwide and has 80 U.S. clients. The house, which was acquired by a group of investors led by former Bidermann executive Alain Nemarcq in 1991, posted sales of $18.6 million last year.

Born in Chile but raised in England, which accounts for her fluent English, Cornejo also keeps busy outside of fashion -- by raising her two-year-old daughter Bibi.

"I think being a mother really helped me as a designer. It allowed me to distance myself from fashion. Before it was all such drama. It also meant that I had to dress more practically, which taught me something too," she said.

For her debut Tehen collection, Cornejo has concentrated on jersey."Doing mainly jersey wear sounds a bit corny but is really fun. We're using a half-dozen qualities of cotton, not just T-shirt fabric," she said. Cornejo also uses Lycra spandex to give the clothes a neater structure, not to make things tight and stretched.

In all, this collection uses about 40 fabrics, nearly all of them exclusive to Tehen, and will be 90 percent manufactured in France.

Raw, unhemmed edges and unlined constructions are featured, with sometimes complex cuts. The palette is monochromatic, except for some colorful mohair and stretched silver.

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