By  on March 10, 2005

NEW YORK — Spring has yet to have sprung, but Walter already is warming up to fall.

The contemporary apparel company founded in 2003 and known for its signature bouclé jackets will roll out a full outerwear collection for fall. The collection includes items such as crocodile-embossed leather jackets, Italian wool tweeds and a mix of real and fake animal-print furs.

“Everyone wants luxury,” said Walter Baker, designer and chief executive officer, from his showroom here. Key pieces for fall include a coyote-fur-trimmed crocodile leather jacket and a silver metallic wool coat with silver fox-fur trim (right). The coats will be manufactured both here and in Italy.

Baker saw firsthand the demand for his outerwear when Paris Hilton was photographed at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in one of his white knee-length belted coats with gold-trim embroidery. “I had 300 e-mails the next day from people begging for that coat,” Baker said with a laugh.

Baker brought in Maria Dionisiou as the design director in January, concentrating on outerwear. Dionisiou was previously the vice president and head designer at Olympia Ltd., a maker of fake fur coats.

Specialty stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue have picked up the outerwear collection as well as boutiques such as Tootsies in Houston. Baker admits he was a bit surprised to see interest from boutiques.

“I thought they may not be receptive only because they didn’t have the room for it,” Baker said. “But I’m so happy they were.”

The wholesale price range is between $175 and $750.

This year promises to be a busy one for Baker: He’s introducing luxury bags for spring 2006 that will wholesale for between $300 and $600. He also hopes to launch a home and men’s collection for spring 2006. Baker predicts wholesale volume of the outerwear collection alone will break $10 million in 2005. He expects wholesale volume of outerwear and sportswear to reach roughly $40 million, based on the reaction and real estate of his sportswear collections in stores such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. Now, with outerwear in the mix, Baker admits there’s one element he can’t control.“We are all at the mercy of the weather,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll be freezing next winter.”

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