By  on September 22, 2005

LONDON — The Matches group of seven boutiques carries the likes of Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga and Lanvin, but owners Tom and Ruth Chapman still felt that something was missing. "We'd been planning to launch a collection for the last couple of years," said Tom Chapman. "But we didn't want it to be perceived as an own-label brand, which is usually done to create a lower price point. We wanted our customers to find something that wasn't available elsewhere."

So the Chapmans approached the New York-based design duo Christopher Crawford and Angela Deane of Christopher Deane to collaborate on the line, which is called Freda, after one of the Chapmans' favorite girls' names. The 23-piece collection includes items such as satin-back crepe cocktail dresses, cropped alpaca jackets and cotton velvet circle skirts. "It was exciting to be a able to work with the price point for Freda [which retails from $400 for velvet pants to $1,620 for a cashmere coat]," said Crawford, whose Christopher Deane line is contemporary. "We wanted to create pieces that would stay in the closet longer than one season, that would deserve a repeat performance," he added. To wit, the duo have added luxurious details such as textured wooden buttons on the collection's alpaca wool coat, and fabric-covered buttons on cropped wool jackets.

Crawford and Dean have just finished working on the spring Freda collection, which Crawford said will focus on versatile pieces such as cotton dresses.

Chapman said that the collection, which was launched in three Matches stores in the last two weeks, had been the "best-selling brand across the stores," and noted that he had been approached by several other retailers about wholesaling the line. "I'm not saying we wouldn't [wholesale] sometime in the future, but we are still on a learning curve with the Freda," said Chapman. "The main reason we did the collection was to keep it, and at the moment we can simply pull a piece out of the line if we're not happy with the quality — we wouldn't have that luxury if we went to wholesale."

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