By  on June 16, 2008

MIAMI — Ea Lingerie is eyeing gold in the U.S. market.

Launched in 2004, the Colombian manufacturer of lingerie and swimwear that also has a burgeoning activewear and footwear business has expanded to 30 freestanding stores and 300 wholesale accounts throughout Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Last month, the company's first U.S. boutique opened in Miami's Mary Brickell Village, an upscale shopping center that caters to Latin American brands and shoppers. Showrooms have popped up in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami, with hopes of capturing 500 U.S. wholesale accounts by year's end, said chief operating officer Steve Bernstein.

"Our goal is to build the brand and validate its quality and delivery capabilities through better department stores and boutiques over the next 12 to 18 months before opening more company-owned stores or franchises," said Bernstein.

The Miami venture is a partnership with Steven Waldman, chief executive officer of Ea Lingerie's recently established U.S. division. Indicative of the neutral, contemporary decor of the firm's stores worldwide, the Miami unit's leather benches, marble floors and minimal displays with glass and silver finishes maximize its 850 square feet. Two small dressing rooms with frosted glass doors could fit inside a third of the space for VIPs that has an enclosed seating area, a Champagne-filled mini refrigerator and two entrances for quicker service.

Bernstein said the U.S. collection will exhibit separately from the main line during trade shows, including the Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris and ColombiaModa in Medellin, Colombia, and the SwimShow in Miami Beach, partly since styles vary for different markets. Larger sizes will be introduced.

Meanwhile, working with international merchandise, Miami's location stocks everything from everyday items to sexy looks. A brown and white polkadot, foam-cup bra and thong panty set with shirred straps and pastel lace appliqués retail for $90 and $37, respectively. The same style in teal with Swarovski crystal embellishment sells for $64 and $35. More elaborate sets are a pinstriped teddy with pink lace and feather trim for $106.

Bernstein said fabrics are sourced from Europe and crystals are authentic, so prices are kept reasonable through long-term relationships with suppliers. Estimating production totals of about 28 groups annually for lingerie and 20 for swimwear, he said newness and limited quantities are key strategies."We're not about mass numbers and even signature basics are offered in new colors every season," said Bernstein.

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