NEW YORK — J.C. Penney Co. said Tuesday that it will sell the new True Beauty by Emme plus-size collection on an exclusive basis for a year, and has an option to renew the contract with the supplier, Kellwood Co.

Penney’s and Kellwood announced the deal Tuesday, confirming a scoop in WWD the same day.

As reported, True Beauty by Emme will be introduced to 500 of Penney’s 1,048 stores by March, as well as Penney’s catalog and Web site. The deal reflects Penney’s efforts to brand itself as a fast-moving, fashion-oriented, moderate-priced department store for the masses. This season, Penney’s launched its exclusive Bisou Bisou contemporary collection in about 500 stores.

True Beauty is being designed and produced by Kellwood and Emme for the spring 2003 season. Emme, a full-figured model, is also a host of E! Entertainment Television’s "Fashion Emergency," and author of the book "True Beauty."

The True Beauty by Emme collection marks Kellwood’s second ongoing apparel venture with Emme. The first was The Emme Collection, which bowed in a handful of channels in April 2000, including certain Nordstrom stores, Nordstrom online and Bloomingdale’s By Mail catalog. With an average retail price of $45, True Beauty is less expensive than the dressier Emme Collection.

Emme, in a statement, described True Beauty as a "dressed-up version of everyday basics that will suit a woman’s lifestyle fashion needs," while Jim Brett, Penney’s divisional vice president and divisional merchandise manager, special sizes, said, "True Beauty is a similar look to the Emme Collection, with great value." True Beauty includes women’s sportswear, dresses, intimate apparel and emphasizes details, ruffles, sheer fabrics, prints and color.

Brett added that with special sizes: "We definitely have a strategy to go after the fashion-oriented customer and to differentiate from the competition. The [women’s plus-size] assortments at department stores tend to be very traditional, and specialty stores are traditional or junior. We want to go after the fashion-oriented customer, ages 35 to 50."

Penney’s other plus-size labels are Crazy Horse Woman, Units, Gloria Vanderbilt, Norton McNaughton, St. John’s Bay and Worthington. Plus-size departments range from 1,000 to 4,000 square feet.Brett said that after the first season, Penney’s will have a good feel for True Beauty’s volume potential, and whether to renew the exclusive contract. Kellwood is a major supplier to Penney’s, selling its Sag Harbor, Koret, Vintage Blue Bottoms and Energy labels to the chain. He declined to project a volume for True Beauty or Penney’s plus-size business.

Vanessa Castagna, chairman and chief executive officer of Penney’s stores, catalog and Internet, said: "Emme has always emphasized that a woman’s true beauty is defined by both inner and outer beauty….Capturing outer beauty is related to what we wear and how we dress, and when we look good, we feel good."

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