By  on December 30, 2004

MANNHEIM, Germany — The scene was like something out of Santa’s workshop.

Some 150 advent calendars were to be shipped the next morning, 3,600 little burlap sacks had been sewn, velvet ribbons in burgundy, antique rose or sea foam attached. These had to be stuffed with 24 surprises (such as an “Almost Famous” button pin, Giandua chocolate, a fashion time-line tape measure, or handmade “Style Icon” tea bags), then tied closed and knotted onto a velvet-covered circular hanger.

The finished product jingled and jangled, the young women who carried them off resembling trendy elves. It was an office-wide effort, full of personal enthusiasm and an eye for detail — much like everything else that comes out of Schumacher, Germany’s playful fashion house.

Once an insider’s tip, Schumacher has developed into a key opening price-point range for 550 designer-oriented stores in Europe, the U.S. and, as of this season, Asia. When Apropos opened its concept store in Cologne in the summer, Schumacher could be found an arm’s length away from Miu Miu. Apropos owner Klaus Ritzenhöfer said the collection “has developed from a modern basic collection to a balanced, complete collection for fashionable young women. It’s one of the best collections in this price range.”

In Europe, Schumacher spring dresses retail for between 269 euros and 439 euros, or $365 and $597 based on current exchange rates. Blouses retail from 119 euros to 259 euros, or $161 to $352; skirts, 199 euros to 349 euros, or $270 to $475; tops, 39 euros to 149 euros, or $53 to $202; sweaters, 149 euros to 299 euros, or $202 to $406, and jackets and coats from 379 euros to 559 euros, or $515 to $760.  Schumacher’s advertising is stylish, it has good marketing tools, Ritzenhöfer added, “and the sell-through is always 90 percent. Our [Schumacher] budget continually grows.”

Dorothee Schumacher Singhoff, 38, and her husband, Jörg Singhoff, 45, founded Schumacher here in 1990, getting their start with three feminine T-shirts banded in satin. Today, the collection encompasses about 300 pieces each season, generating annual sales of about 20 million euros, or $27.2 million.

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