NEW YORK — The Levine-Tahari collaboration is clicking.

When former Kasper ASL chairman Arthur S. Levine teamed up with designer Elie Tahari to launch a new suit line for fall called Tahari by Arthur S. Levine, initial first-year sales projections were $75 million. But after a successful fall debut, the Tahari and Levine team said they expect to ring up sales of more than $100 million for the line’s first full year, and have their sights set on the $150 million mark for all of 2003.

"I’ve been in the suit business for nearly 40 years and as good as I know how to produce suits, for Arthur to come in and take the business over $100 million is remarkable," Tahari said.

The concept for the line, Levine said, seeks to fulfill three diverse categories of a woman’s wardrobe: eveningwear, career apparel and sportswear. Top sellers include traditional two-button pinstripe suits and three-piece sportswear looks.

Levine said he thinks most women want to buy one outfit, rather than fish around and coordinate looks. He also said he thinks the fashion cycle is shifting toward dressier clothes.

Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Lord & Taylor, said the line is performing well at retail.

"Some of the other suit resources are certainly showing growth," Olexa said. "But I believe Tahari is leading the pack at this point. One of the things is that there is a great attention to detail. There is a trend toward large-scale buttons, pinstripes and ruffle details and they’re on top of the trends."

Olexa also said Tahari is a name that garners brand recognition and when joined with Levine — who she said is a master in the suit business — it’s a winning combination.

While Olexa would not disclose figures, she said a positive customer reaction to the line most likely means increased buys from Lord & Taylor for next season.

"[Pants have] for some time been the leader, but there has been a great interest in skirts," Olexa said. "It’s doing extremely well in our store and the customer is pleased."

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