By  on September 14, 2005

NEW YORK — Sigrid Olsen is moving up.

The better sportswear brand, owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., is adding a bridge line to its mix for spring. But Ellis Kreuger, design director at the firm, stressed the new line, called Sigrid, is not your mother's bridge collection.

"These are modern clothes with a sexy fit and youthful feeling that Sigrid and I feel is so appropriate for the bridge area," said Kreuger, who recently joined the company from his design post at Tocca. "This line is a pure expression of Sigrid herself. It's about her artwork and her love of clothes."

The spring collection, which will begin deliveries in February, is certainly young in spirit, as seen in the embroidered sundresses, cropped jackets, silk camisoles and slouchy denim jeans in dark, antique and white washes. Each piece has some element of detail added, such as the silk-lined jackets in Olsen's signature prints. There are also finished seams in the pants and jackets as well as delicate embroidery on dresses and denim jackets. Wholesaling from $45 for a T-shirt to $275 for a suede jacket, the company is targeting Sigrid to department and better specialty retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and other Federated stores.

Olsen said she hired Kreuger specifically because of his belief in the new line; the fact that he came from Tocca was an added bonus.

"I've always wanted to do a higher-end collection so I can use my signature prints and artwork, things that are more expensive to produce," Olsen said. "It's just more unusual for a company to start in better and then move up. It's usually the other way around. When I met with Ellis, we clicked right away, and I knew I'd found the perfect person to design the line. He walked in with just the right spirit."

Kreuger agreed that, when he first met Olsen, they immediately hit it off and he was easily able to design the collection based on Olsen's artwork. He believed in it so much that he packed his bags and moved from his New York apartment to Boston, near the Sigrid Olsen headquarters.

"I work in an office with about 60 women of all ages. Sigrid and her daughter, Brita, are always there as well as all of the other women," he said. "So I'm able to get a taste of what these women like and what they would spend their own money on. That really helps my own inspiration a lot."The new bridge collection is just a step in the company's overall program for growth. It plans to open more freestanding stores to bring the number up to 100 from 35 by 2007. At Liz Claiborne's annual shareholders' meeting in May, chairman and chief executive officer Paul Charron cited Sigrid Olsen as among the group's subsidiaries with the potential to become "global, multichannel, multicategory brands that reach consumers when, where and how they shop."

Liz Claiborne, a $4.6 billion business, acquired 84.5 percent of Segrets Inc., holder of the Sigrid Olsen label, in 1999 for an undisclosed sum. Olsen retained a small stake. At the purchase, it was reported the company's revenues were about $60 million. Liz Claiborne does not divulge the sales volumes of the individual brands it owns.

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