NEW YORK — The deal has been signed and Coogi, the brand known for its signature multicolor knits, is ready for an active year ahead under its new owners.
Last month, the 33-year-old label was purchased by Norman and Bruce Weisfeld, investors in Fubu and Willie Esco, and Jimmy Khezrie, owner of the Jimmy Jazz retail chain. Now, the team of owners has big plans for the label that’s found a place among the urban crowd.
The partners, who wrestled Coogi from the Australian equivalent of bankruptcy, plan to revamp the brand and bring it back to its roots as a designer lifestyle label. Their aggressive plans are to reach $150 million in volume by the end of its first full year at retail.
Bernt Ullmann, global brand manager, said the trick is to upgrade the line, while not forgetting the urban customer.
"We will be urban the way that Gucci and Louis Vuitton are urban," Ullmann said. "We are not dissing urban at all here. We would be wrong to do that since urban is what the owners do so well. What we plan to do with Coogi is add to the urban part of it and elevate it to a higher level and I think that is very consistent with what the traditional urban customer looks for."
Ullmann said the firm wants to capitalize on its signature colorful knits by having a piece of it on every garment. For example, it may appear as the lining of a raincoat or on the cuffs of a shirt. Also, the company plans to launch a variety of products and collections next year. Ullmann wouldn’t reveal too many details, but he said the firm is in negotiations with a "well-known Milan designer" to design the new collections, which will be broken up into three lines.
A high-end line is set to be launched for fall retailing that targets upscale specialty stores. It will wholesale for $125 and up. A diffusion line, which Ullmann said will be much more accessible for its current customer base, will be ripe for licensing opportunities in areas such as footwear, children’s wear, accessories, fragrances, legwear, personal care products and a home line. Ullmann said the line will most likely be called Coogi Jeans or Coogi Sport. Also, it will launch a resort collection that reflects the Australian beach lifestyle to include swimwear, tennis outfits and golf gear.The company signed a lease last week for a showroom on the 20th floor of 745 Fifth Avenue in New York, in a 4,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Hermès. It also has an aggressive retail rollout plan. Ullmann said the company is scheduled to open a Manhattan flagship store in SoHo in 2004, which would be its first retail unit, as well as plans for 10 freestanding stores every year for the next several years.
Coogi plans to build brand awareness with a full advertising and product-placement campaign when the timing is right. Ullmann said that while the brand started with men’s wear, he is confident that Coogi women’s wear has the potential to outperform the men’s collections. While Australia is still an important home market, he expects the U.S. to eventually account for 50 percent of the global sales.
"We have deep pockets and are ready to fully support this brand," Ullmann said. "All plans are in development: retail, licensing, design. We are feeling very positive about the strength of this brand so we are ready to come full force."
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