By  on June 30, 1994

PARIS -- Michel Klein has developed a new luxury ready-to-wear collection for Guy Laroche.

Klein, who took over the role as Laroche's couturier last September, has launched a small line of couture-inspired suits and separates called "Guy Laroche Couture." The line is made up of the simpler pieces from the Laroche haute couture collection, including Klein's self-termed "classic Mao suit."

"Women familiar with haute couture won't be lost wearing this," Klein said, "and a ready-to-wear woman will really feel the luxury....I am thinking about the woman who buys from Chanel, Jil Sander or Hermes."

The new line is made up of about a dozen pieces -- dresses, skirts, jackets and pantsuits -- all manufactured in Groupe Guy Laroche's factories. Starting this September, it will be updated and shipped at least four times a year to Laroche's thirty-odd wholly owned boutiques throughout Europe and the Laroche store in New York.

The line will bow in mid-September at Barneys uptown store in New York, and in Los Angeles. Rollout into other Barneys locations is on hold for the time being. "We want to walk with this collection before we run with it," said Bonnie Pressman, Barneys's divisional senior vice president for women's.

Pressman said Barneys has a year-long exclusive on the collection, but that could change if both Laroche and Barneys agree. Pressman said that, to her knowledge, Barneys has never sold Laroche women's rtw, but may have sold some of its men's wear years ago. Barneys has carried Klein's signature collection, and the sportier Klein d'Oeil, for about seven years.

"When we saw the haute couture, the Mao suit, it inspired us, it was so simple and modern," Pressman said. "We had talked about bringing 'couture' to Barneys, with its high-fashion styling and quality, but at rtw prices, and Klein went for it." She added that Klein may do a trunk show to celebrate the line's American launch.

In developing the line, Groupe Guy Laroche took some of the designs from the haute couture and produced them industrially, while keeping some couture touches. The garments are manufactured in-house, helping to keep prices "reasonable," while Klein has kept couture details like handmade passementerie buttons or silk linings for jackets.

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