Lifestyle line Vince and basic knit line Kokoon are quickly establishing themselves as players

After only two seasons at retail, stores are making room for Vince.

Founded in December 2002 by Christopher LaPolice and Rea Laccone, both formerly of Laundry by Shelli Segal, Vince is already a top seller in stores such as Barneys, New York; Bergdorf Goodman; Neiman Marcus, Fred Segal and Intermix.

The New York-based company is about to reach the $25 million mark.

Backed by John Paul Richard, a $175 million moderate sportswear company, LaPolice and Laccone have crafted Vince with what LaPolice described as a “modern classic look.” Key items in the line include lightweight, close-to-the-body cashmere sweaters, distressed leather and satin bomber jackets, sheer cotton-ribbed T-shirts and flannel pinstripe pants.

“There is such an opportunity in contemporary for these modern classic clothes,” said LaPolice, who spent three years as the president of Elie Tahari after leaving Laundry by Shelli Segal, where he met Laccone, who was there for 15 years. Today, LaPolice steers the sales and marketing end of the business while Laccone works closely with the designer, Michelene Ip, on the creative end.

While the line has also been selling well at retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Scoop and Fred Segal, Vince really caught the attention of many when pop icon Madonna chose the company’s black satin bomber jacket for her album cover and again for her televised Tower Records performance. The jacket will not be available in stores until next month, but that hasn’t stopped the flood of callers looking for it.

“Fashionistas have to have it now,” LaPolice said. “They have been calling the office asking where they can get it. The demand for it has completely outweighed the supply.”

LaPolice said there are 2,000 jackets that will hit stores next month. They wholesale for $130.

Next up, the company will launch a men’s contemporary sportswear line, which LaPolice said will be produced in-house, and a licensing deal to distribute the brand in Europe. Both will be ready for fall 2004. Also, a line of Vince maternity wear will hit Pea In The Pod stores in the fall.
Stacey Perlick, Vivian Koo and Susie Cho are watching a Kokoon hatch — their new line of contemporary knitwear, that is, set for a fall retail launch.

Perlick, vice president of sales and Koo, vice president, met at Tse, where they worked on the knitwear collection. The two brought in Cho to design the new line.

“There was a missing link to fill,” Perlick said. “With this line, I want to provide great knitwear with a designer sensibility at a contemporary price.”

Perlick said this line is for someone who doesn’t fit into the traditional contemporary fit. Also, she said it is made to appear more sophisticated than a lot of the knitwear in the sector. Each piece on the line is treated with some sort of detailing, without appearing overly embellished. Some strong pieces include a sheer 18-gauge cashmere T-shirt meant for layering, a chunky cashmere cableknit sweater, a cashmere bomber jacket, a trench coat, a vest and an asymmetrical draped-front cardigan. Also available are some bottoms, such as a cashmere miniskirt and pants.

Perlick said, “The name signifies being wrapped up and cozy,” Perlick said. “So we thought, what could be a better name for a line of knits?”

The team can see launching a series of products down the line. She said they will stick to their roots of providing a strong collection of knits and are thinking about launching maternity and children’s wear.

Wholesaling between $55 and $250, Perlick said she expects to reach $2 million in the first year.

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