By  on May 30, 2007

Kohl's has Daisy Fuentes, and now Mervyns is launching an exclusive Constance Marie sportswear collection for fall.

The collection will mark Mervyns' entry into celebrity fashion, reflecting the regional chain's revamped apparel merchandising team and its program of intensifying products aimed at the Latino market over the past two years.

Ironically, the TV sitcom that catapulted Constance Marie to national recognition, "George Lopez," was recently canceled. However, Mervyns executives noted the show would continue to be widely viewed in syndication, and that the cancellation freed Constance Marie to publicize the collection with fashion previews, store appearances and advertising, as well as future licensing deals.

"She really wants to be very involved in this brand," said Mervyns senior vice president and general merchandising manager Michael Wallen. "She'll critique and wear the product."

While not actually designing the collection, "Constance will be included in every step of the way, from the design review to the fit process," added David Kranz, vice president of ready-to-wear. "The line will definitely have her touch and feel on it."

The executives declined to disclose the projected volume of the collection, which will make its debut in Mervyns' 174 locations, all in the West and Southwest, in September. However, they did say that it should exceed the chain's average of $300 in sales per square foot, partly because the price points are skewed a bit higher than Mervyns merchandise overall, and because the collection will be heavily promoted.

"Prices are higher because we're putting more fashion and novelty into the collection," Kranz said. "There is definitely a sexy undertone."

The collection, simply called Constance Marie, will offer career and casual components such as sexy camisoles for $20, on the low end of the price spectrum, as well as novelty sweater dusters, body-conscious knits, cropped jackets, fluid blouses, knee-skimming skirts and dresses and denim, which are priced at the high end, at $35. Mervyns also said the collection was inspired by the colorful Dia de la Independencia Festival, which celebrates Mexico's independence from Spain in 1810.

The sportswear will be sold in misses', women's and petites, on eight to 10 racks, depending on the size of the Mervyns store. "In Kohl's, Daisy Fuentes is big," said Wallen. "But Constance's rating in the L.A. market [where Mervyns is heavily concentrated] is unusually high. It's double that of Daisy."Chain-wide, more than 50 percent of Mervyns' customers are Latino.

According to Mervyns demographics, the store's average customer is a 34-year-old woman with 2.5 children, which is about eight years younger than the typical J.C. Penney's or Macy's female customer with two children.

The Constance Marie clothes will be manufactured by b.i.y.a.y.c.d.a. (Believe in Yourself and You Can Do Anything).

"As an actress, I have had to learn how to dress to accentuate the positive and minimize the negative to get that job," Constance Marie said in a statement. "And I understand women want to look good, and not break the bank trying to do it….I truly believe this line will be for real women with real curves, to embrace the fact that beauty and style come in all shapes and sizes."

Five percent of all sales of the Constance Marie collection will be donated to the b.i.y.a.y.c.d.a. foundation, which helps disadvantaged children with after-school programs and tutoring.

Marie's acting career has included roles in television shows and films such as "Selena," "Tortilla Soup," "American Family," "Spin City" and "Ally McBeal."

After the launch of Constance Marie, "there will be new launches in the spring," Wallen said. "We are trying to develop some brands that will cross all genders — men's, women's and kids'. There is an emphasis in finding some niches we think we have to fill, but our job is bringing newness — period. We are a regional player that differentiates from our competitors, climatically and by consumer type."

Kohl's exclusive Daisy Fuentes collection was launched in March 2004 and has been expanded into a wide variety of categories.

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