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Nicole Miller Thinking Better

NEW YORK — Nicole Miller is the latest designer headed to better sportswear.<br><br>Lured by consumers’ desire for stylish, designer-inspired sportswear that doesn’t break the bank, Nicole Miller will launch a more affordably priced...

A sketch of Nicole Miller’s better sportswear.

A sketch of Nicole Miller’s better sportswear.

WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Nicole Miller is the latest designer headed to better sportswear.

Lured by consumers’ desire for stylish, designer-inspired sportswear that doesn’t break the bank, Nicole Miller will launch a more affordably priced line for spring. It will be shown for the first time at its own fashion show during fashion week in September. The name of the line will be announced next month. The show venue is being finalized, but will not be in the main Bryant Park locations.

“It’s going to stand on its own and be a real collection,” Bud Konheim, president and chief executive officer of Nicole Miller, said Wednesday. “Sportswear has become more design-oriented and fast-changing, and we’re just following our nose.”

With prices retailing in the $100 to $200 range, the line will feature tops, pants and items that are versatile. Items for spring will include a French terry and silk zip-up jacket and miniskirt, with a rose print, rayon and spandex V-neck T-shirt.

Konheim said the better-priced line will bow in the company’s chain of 31 signature stores, as well as independent specialty accounts for a few seasons, before breaking into department stores. He said the business should do between $4 million to $5 million the first year.

“In America, there’s no escaping that first-class travel now is sweatshirts and casualwear,” Konheim said. “It sets a trend for what Americans want: casual, comfortable design. Before, [sportswear] was dominated by jeans and it was essentially a price and hype deal. Today, people are looking for differentiation beyond jeans and that’s what the fashion industry is all about.”

Miller’s move comes at a time when several designers have recently expressed interest in the better arena — namely Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta. Kellwood is also pursuing that market with Calvin Klein. The area is now dominated by big American sportswear companies like Jones New York, Liz Claiborne, AK Anne Klein, City DKNY and Lauren by Ralph Lauren.

Konheim said the bottom line is that there’s no room anymore for basic, homogenized clothing — at any price — in a world where consumers are savvier than ever and expect design and great style wherever they shop.

“Prestige today is doing a lot of business,” he said. “That’s what prestige has become. It’s not dressing the Princess of Brunei. It’s doing a lot of business and people who are respected are people who are able to capture a wide audience.”