By  on November 8, 2007

NEW YORK — Gregg Fiene is back in business.

Fiene, the founder of mega junior sportswear brand XOXO, has returned with a pair of new brands, Selé and Taylor and Hyde, aimed at enticing modern junior and young contemporary customers. After selling XOXO for $20 million to Aris Industries Inc. in 1999, and leaving the company in 2003, Fiene took time off to assess the industry and study the trends and buying strategies of consumers.

"What I found was that there was this contemporary customer out there who just couldn't afford contemporary, but wanted something better than what the junior departments had to offer," Fiene said in his new offices at 530 Seventh Avenue here.

To solve that need, he started Yank in March 2005. The brand was launched exclusively with Federated Department Stores. Yank was priced higher than typical junior brands but lower than contemporary, and was to sit on Macy's contemporary floor. However, when Federated purchased the May Department Stores Co. in August 2005, Fiene's Yank brand was placed on the juniors floor, where it was priced too high for that customer. The line failed and was forced out of business.

Last year, Fiene tried apparel again and launched Selé. As a test, he introduced the line on a smaller scale and was committed to launching Selé as a junior brand, wholesaling between $12 and $49, but with a young contemporary fit and finer-quality fabrics.

"I'm able to keep my prices down because I keep my margins low and I partnered with a great factory in China — experts at tailoring and great suiting," he said. "The result is a high-quality, lower-priced product."

For spring, Fiene has ambitious plans for Selé. He expanded the collection and it is now a true full sportswear line, offering a range from cotton jacquard jackets and skirts to charmeuse dresses and fully lined trench coats. There are also fine-gauge knit sweaters and printed novelty tops. Selling at select Macy's and Dillard's stores, Fiene said he plans to double his doors with the spring season and bring in more than $24 million in wholesale sales volume by the end of this year. Next year, Fiene said he sees Selé reaching $35 million to $40 million in wholesale volume."This is not bubblegum juniors," he said. "It's young contemporary with great quality."

Ultimately, Fiene said he would like to take the brand public, and is in the initial stages of that goal.

"I've met with some people on Wall Street and am just testing the waters," he said. "But I definitely see the brand going public."

Meanwhile, Fiene said he is working at growing the Selé brand and would like to begin licensing, similar to what he did with XOXO. He doesn't want to rush into it, but would eventually like to have a full accessories offering, shoes and possibly even freestanding retail.

In addition to the Selé brand, Fiene this year launched Taylor and Hyde, a contemporary dress line that consists mostly of silk printed dresses and gowns. It is sold at Nordstrom, Macy's and Metropark in Los Angeles. The line wholesales from $69 to $150 and includes a pleated silk chiffon print tube dress, a silk jersey strapless dress and a leopard-print halter gown. Available at the Philip NYC showroom at 231 West 39th Street here, Fiene said he hopes to expand Taylor and Hyde as well, but is taking his time.

"I want to build strong brands, build an image for them," he said. "This is not something to rush."

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