CATHERINE’S CHINATOWN: Electrified by a recent six-day stay in China, Catherine Malandrino is eager to break into that luxury-minded market. The designer made the journey to meet with potential distributors. Checking into The China Club, a Beijing hotel built from a 17th-century palace, and checking out the art scene in the 798 District were bonuses, as was the architecture. “I never imagined the contrast between the traditional building — the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing — and the most interesting modern architecture and the most impressive luxury world.


This story first appeared in the December 27, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“For me, Beijing was a real discovery. I have been to Hong Kong a few times, but they are really different places,” she said. “You can’t really imagine what is going on there, especially coming from America, where women are very price conscious, focused on sales and finding off-price merchandise. There, the customer is totally into luxury and designers. They understand the brands, style and fashion.”

Noting how Miuccia Prada and Hermès plan to show in Beijing, Malandrino also singled out Louis Vuitton and Chanel for their grand freestanding stores. Retail in general is in another stratosphere, she added. The designer said of Beijing’s luxury malls: “They are not even comparable — the stores are three to four times bigger than the ones we have here. It’s really impressive, what’s going on there.”

HOT TOPIC, ESHAYA DEAL: Hot Topic Inc. is the latest retailer to dive into designer collaborations. The company has inked a licensing agreement with John Eshaya, creator of the Jet clothing brand and store at Fred Segal and former vice president of women’s wear at Ron Herman, for collections under the John Eshaya for Hot Topic label at its 650 Hot Topic stores and under the John Eshaya for Torrid label at its 156 plus-size specialty Torrid stores launching in May.

The collections mark Eshaya’s first licensing deal and will expose his casual California aesthetic to a much broader audience than ever before. Speaking specifically of his pieces heading to Torrid, he said: “What is cool is that it is for a whole new market.…It is kind of giving the Jet look for these girls that are plus-size and keeping it young and happening, so it is not like they are having to wear stuff that isn’t supercool.”

Although the details of the collections are still being worked out, Eshaya estimated there would be seven to eight pieces each for the initial launches at Hot Topic and Torrid, and prices for the pieces would not exceed $40 at Hot Topic and $60 at Torrid. The collections will contain Eshaya staples such as sweatpants, T-shirts and roomy sweaters. He said a key look from his collection entering Hot Topic is a printed loose jersey tank top and wrap jacket combo that customers can wear with jeans, and a key look from the Torrid collection is cropped sweatpants that can be paired with chunky heels.

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