By  on October 21, 2008

When Shin Choi first launched her company back in 1988, it was a contemporary line called Coleridge & Co. “It was named after the poet,” she notes. A decade later, she gave the collection a facelift, renaming it after herself and moving it into a designer price range. “When your line becomes successful, you begin dabbling with more expensive fabrics,” she explains. “The prices creep up and you do more things.” That is, of course, how customers best know her — not as a contemporary gal, but as a purveyor of smart tailoring and separates for the professional set. Now, with another decade behind her, Choi is going back to those lower-priced roots.

For spring she debuts a secondary line, Yarnie, named after a common nickname in Korea. And the wholesale prices? They range from $39 to $98 while the main collection goes from $69 to $249. Choi, who also has a freestanding store on Mercer Street, admits the not-so-bullish economy was on her mind when she launched the label. “Until last year, we all thought, ‘OK, we’re fine,’” she says. “But now everybody’s squeezed. This is a time to offer something lower.” She adds that the current contemporary market isn’t exactly wallet-friendly anymore. “Right now, that department has the same designer price points as my [main] line. There’s a whole other customer you can pull in.”

But attractive pricing aside, Choi is banking on the designs themselves to draw in shoppers. “Yarnie’s a lot more fashion-forward; the cuts are more avant-garde,” she says. Indeed, the collection skews decidedly urban, with a slightly languid Japanese undercurrent. The focus is on easy, soft shapes, as in slouchy blouses, rumpled rompers and draped frocks. “My Shin Choi line has a more polished look,” the designer adds. “This is the younger sister. It’s much more spontaneous.” In fact, there are no pants in the lineup because the customer, according to Choi, wears jeans. “I concentrated on tops and dresses because that’s what younger girls like to wear at this point.” As for how this contemporary outing differs from her first collection 20 years ago, “It was more serious then,” Choi notes. “I’m making this a lot more playful.”

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