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Perry Ellis Buttons Down

MAINSTREAM: Perry Ellis is reinventing the classic button-down shirt the designer made famous and bringing it back for fall retailing.

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NEW YORK — Perry Ellis is reinventing the classic button-down shirt the designer made famous and bringing it back for fall.

Clearly, they’re not just about plain, white oxfords.

“Shirts are the perfect accessory,” said Elissa Bromer, president of Perry Ellis women’s wear, which under licensor Public Clothing Co., in team with Perry Ellis International, relaunched the women’s line at retail for spring. “Modern women want to look cool and hip, and shirts are pivotal.”

Drawing from the Perry Ellis heritage of classic sportswear with a twist, these button downs feature eight styles spread over about 120 variations — including stripes and solids in vibrant colors like periwinkle blue, lavender and watermelon.

The collection features the Perry Ellis sleeve-pleat trademark — where the fabric is pleated at the shoulder — along with new details like a higher collar that looks more pronounced under a jacket or on its own, puffed shoulder sleeves and convertible cuffs that can be worn long or, well, cuffed. For some humor, all of the shirts have names such as “Jane” for the crisp, white oxford, “Laura” for the puffed-sleeve number and “Claire” which has crossback stripes. Hangtags will identify each type for easy name recognition.

“We want to give this woman the opportunity to build on a wardrobe like a man does,” Bromer said. “A crisp shirt is very true to American classic sportswear, yet at the same time, we’re trying to get out of this conservative ideology and show they can be worn in many ways — like as a jacket with lingerie underneath for a softer effect. We’re driving this by item and classification more so than related separates.”

Bromer said the shirts will be “well-represented” at Perry Ellis’ upcoming fall fashion show, at 9 a.m. Feb. 11 at The Grace Building.

The company’s goal is to turn the women’s sportswear business into a $100 million venture over time. The shirt business will represent about 40 percent of women’s wear, she said.

The shirts will wholesale for $26 to $31 and be offered in sizes 4 to 16. Fabrics will include cotton and cotton stretch blends. Noniron, easy-care shirts called “Lisa” also will be offered.

As a complement, the company is in the process of developing a bottoms and jackets program featuring “five legs and three jackets,” Bromer said. “We think this is without a doubt the new way to dress,” she said.

Frank Doroff, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president of ready-to-wear, said it’s a good idea to market the shirts as a classification business, since this area has not been tapped on the retail floor.

“The product looks great. I like the patterns, the concept and the actual shirts — the silhouettes,” Doroff said. “There’s way too many collections [on the selling floor] and we need to get into some classification business that will stand out. What I like best is they’re a group of very nice-looking and interesting shirts, whether they’re reminiscent of Perry Ellis or not. But Perry was known for his shirts and knitwear.

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