By  on August 24, 2006

NEW YORK — After a courtship of almost two years, Vera Wang has finally said "I do" to Kohl's Corp.

The designer and Kohl's said Wednesday that they will team up to create a premium fashion and lifestyle brand called Very Vera by Vera Wang, which will be available at more than 900 Kohl's moderate department stores and kohls.com beginning in fall 2007.

The multicategory deal encompasses women's apparel, intimate apparel, handbags, leather accessories, jewelry, footwear, linens and towels.

Terms of the multiyear contract weren't disclosed, but industry sources said the arrangement could develop into a $500 million business for Kohl's by the third year. Wang will receive both an upfront payment and royalties from Kohl's and could personally reap about $100 million over the length of the contract, said sources.

The deal ends a nearly two-year period during which Wang was wooed by several suitors, including Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne Inc. and even St. John for assorted deals ranging, respectively, from a better sportswear line to an outright acquisition to becoming creative director.

Wang, whose high-end bridal, ready-to-wear and licensing business generates $225 million at wholesale, is the latest major designer to tap into the lucrative mainstream market. For years, the designer has expressed a strong desire to offer more affordable products to a wider audience, and she said Wednesday that was the impetus behind the Kohl's deal.

"I can become a more iconic American brand and be exposed to America in a larger sense," said Wang in an interview at her offices here.

"Some of my frustration is I work very hard at the upper end with all the resources and intellectual thought processes and it's a very challenging thing to do, but more women can't wear it and it will never reach them."

She said she began offering fragrances so women can get the essence of what Wang is about for $85. Today, her fragrance business, licensed to Coty Prestige Inc., garners $100 million at retail, according to industry sources.

Wang seems almost embarrassed by the high prices her Collection commands. "To work with $100-a-yard fabric and $200 embroideries is an elitist world. I value it and adore it," she said, but she also wants to dress women from all walks of life with different lifestyles.

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