LOS ANGELES — Polo Ralph Lauren said Tuesday that it has signed a licensing deal with Apparel Ventures Inc. to make women’s and girls’ swimwear beginning July 1, 2003. "This new relationship will allow us to capitalize on our combined strengths — Polo Ralph Lauren’s creativity and design expertise, and AVI’s ability to consistently manufacture and distribute quality fashion swimwear," said Douglas Williams, group president at Polo.The Ralph Lauren swimwear license had been held by Commerce, Calif.-based Authentic Fitness Corp. since 1998. Apparel Ventures, a $100 million company based here that also holds licenses for Tommy Bahama, OP and Anne Klein, will manufacture and market swimwear for Ralph Lauren Collection, Ralph Lauren Sport, Ralph Lauren Girls, Lauren Ralph Lauren and RALPH Ralph Lauren. "We were interested in moving into a global brand situation with an internationally recognized name," AVI ceo Lynne Koplin said on Tuesday. Koplin worked at Authentic Fitness when it launched Ralph Lauren five years ago.The range of Ralph Lauren swimwear is expected to generate $25 million in the first year under the new deal at wholesale, Koplin said.The Ralph Lauren Collection line, which is already being designed in Italy using European fabrics, will reflect the luxury sensibility of the brand more than it has in the past, she added."I like to think we are a fashion company and fashion will really be driving the Collection and Sport lines."The new lines will preview in January and begin shipping in May. Distribution of Ralph Lauren Collection and Ralph Lauren Sport swimwear will include Ralph Lauren boutiques as well as specialty and department stores, while Lauren Ralph Lauren, RALPH Ralph Lauren and Ralph Lauren Girls swimwear will be distributed only to department and select specialty stores.

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