By  on October 23, 2007

NEW YORK — The pieces of the Halston puzzle are coming together for the relaunch this February.

After tapping Marco Zanini as creative director in July, Halston president and chief executive officer Bonnie Takhar has implemented several initiatives to rejuvenate the iconic label.

There has been much speculation about the positioning of the new Halston, and Takhar told WWD in an exclusive interview that the aim is "to rebuild and bring to the market an American luxury brand.

"We have inherited the DNA of the brand and it really makes sense for us to go to market with a complete presentation for the women's market. From there, we will diversify into other classifications," she said.

The new Halston will be unveiled with a runway show during New York Fashion Week, and unlike other clothing launches, it will start with ready-to-wear, footwear and handbag collections, all produced in-house.

Takhar added the reintroduction of the label will be global from season one, with target distribution markets including Asia and Europe.

"The American market is incredibly important, not just the association historically for the brand, but also in terms of the market," she said. "We will be focused on ensuring the American market is fulfilled in terms of merchandise and need, while making it relevant and translating it into international markets as well."

As a business model, Halston will be a hybrid between wholesale, retail and licensing components. "As a part of a piece of the business, we plan to roll out franchises in key markets where we have established relationships to do such an operation, with partners that have luxury retail experience," she said. "Retail is a critical component to this equation. Today in the luxury model it's imperative to control your environment in establishing the positioning of the brand."

Halston was bought by The Weinstein Co. and Hilco Consumer Capital LLC last March. It is being relaunched with Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon, who is on Halston's board, and stylist Rachel Zoe, who, with Mellon, is a member of Halston's creative advisory team.

The February launch will offer eveningwear, cocktail attire, daywear, outerwear and knitwear separates. Wholesale prices start at $150 for knits and can go as high as $10,000 for specialty item dresses. Initially, there will be a spring and a fall collection, but Takhar said the plan is to expand the line thereafter with two additional seasons.Takhar hired Stephan Brakebusch as vice president of sales and licensing from Elie Tahari, where he was strategic adviser, and before that, worked at Donna Karan International for 10 years, most recently as senior vice president sales and merchandising.

Halston also signed on David Lipman to help with its branding and advertising language. Takhar said Lipman "is particularly attuned to the DNA of Halston, which is going to allow us to bring Halston into the modern day." In addition, the fashion house retained marketing and communications agency HL Group to work on establishing the global public relations strategy.

The new Halston team also has been working closely with Elizabeth Arden, which makes the Halston fragrances, to make sure the same strategic direction will be applied to this existing category.

"There is so much heritage to work with that this is ensuring we extract the relevant elements of the brand that will be important for the launch," Takhar explained. "It's important that we focus on the past, but very important we bring it into the modern day."

Takhar declined to disclose sales projections, other than to say: "I would call it a strategic and measured launch. I would say that if we lay the foundations in the right manner by building the blocks strategically, the potential of this brand is in line with other luxury brands that we know. But the first five years are incredibly critical in order to achieve that, and our focus is to make sure that we get to that number."

The company's global headquarters are located in a 6,000-square-foot space at 96 Spring Street, which will house the showroom, the design atelier and the executive offices. The design of the space is expected to be complete before the end of the year. During Halston's reign, the offices were in Olympic Towers, a site Takhar deliberately avoided.

"I am not sure how we would be perceived if we went back into Olympic Towers, but the irony is that there is a Jimmy Choo store in the Olympic Towers," said Takhar, who joined Halston last May from Jimmy Choo, where she had been chief commercial officer. "I have been negotiating with them that if they ever vacate the space, it might be a good accessories location for us."

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