PARIS — Martin Margiela is already gearing up for his post-Hermès life — and it would appear the reclusive designer plans to build on his six-year experience at the French luxury house.

A spokesman for the press-shy Belgian said an upscale line of classic women’s clothes, accessories and shoes would be launched for spring 2004 retailing. Margiela’s 19-year-old Paris-based house will begin wholesaling it in August, but it won’t get a runway showcase.

To be labeled “4,” it will be more expensive than Margiela’s runway collection, “1.” Each of Margiela’s various lines corresponds to a number from 0 to 22.

“We see it as a timeless wardrobe for women,” the spokesman explained. “Basically, it’s our view of a classical approach to dressing. It’s based on taste instead of the fashion trends.”

Although he stopped short of labeling it luxury, he allowed that “4” would boast exclusive fabrics and rich linings. “There is a large concentration on detail,” he added, noting this addresses a desire to express a “personal approach to dressing.”

He continued, “It’s a different approach to fashion. It will be structured with a masculine side, but also mixed with more feminine details. It’s aimed at the Margiela woman who wants the cut, but who doesn’t want to follow the designer’s vision for the season.”

After the debut this fall, the spokesman said the 70-piece line would be wholesaled in January and July, following the men’s fashion calendar.

News of the launch comes two days after Hermès International announced that couturier Jean Paul Gaultier would succeed Margiela as designer of its women’s ready-to-wear collection.

Margiela’s swan song will be presented in October, after which Gaultier will pilot the line.

The launch of “4” suggests Margiela is angling to expand his house, which had sales last year of about $23 million.

Last September, Diesel owner Renzo Rosso took a majority stake in Margiela’s business and said he would pump in new investment to expand the house’s retail scope.To wit: the designer will open a sixth stand-alone boutique, in Osaka, Japan, by the end of the year, according to the spokesman. Margiela operates five stores already — two each in Paris and Tokyo, plus a unit in Brussels.

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