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Herff Christiansen’s Contemporary Basics

Not every designer knows from childhood that his or her future lies in pins and needles. Sometimes, the industry just sucks them in.

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A bestselling silhouette from Herff Christiansen's spring line that will be recolored for fall.

WWD Staff

DALLAS — Not every designer knows from childhood that his or her future lies in pins and needles. Sometimes, the industry just sucks them in. That’s the case with Mary Herff and Randi Christiansen, who flirted with fashion for years before taking the plunge.

“We had worked in sister industries, and we wanted to work in fashion,” said Herff. “Our whole concept is to do fashion contemporary basics that offer accessible price, sustainable fabrics, versatility and functionality in a tonal palette that they can throw on instead of maybe a T-shirt. Something they can wear season after season because of the construction and colors.”

The two met 10 years ago while they were earning their M.B.A.s at the University of Texas in Austin. Both women are veterans of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., where Christiansen served as global marketing director for Estée Lauder-brand color cosmetics and La Mer skin care, and Herff ran global marketing for Jo Malone. Herff also logged six years as West Coast publicity director for 20th Century Fox Studios in the Nineties.

From their home base in Austin, where they each relocated in recent years with Texan husbands, the pair launched Herff Christiansen with a handful of pieces that caught the attention of Forty Five Ten here and By George in Austin.

“We liked that it was perfect summer-into-fall transition for Dallas — crisp and clean,” said Brian Bolke, co-owner of Forty Five Ten. “It is the perfect neutral collection for bold accessories — also perfect for the client that didn’t embrace the color and pattern theme for spring.”

Launched last year with one pima cotton rib-knit tank, the label now has 14 accounts and a transactional Web site, herffchristiansen.com.

“Essentially we have seven pieces for spring ’08 and eight for fall, but some of our most forward pieces are the ones that seem to do the very best and [are] what our customers are interested in,” Herff explained.

Those would be woven Peruvian cotton cowl-neck and V-neck tunics, which were introduced this spring and recolored for fall. Herff Christiansen also offers pima cotton Ts and tanks with silver stitching, a cargo pant and shirts in black, gray, white and other neutrals. Wholesale prices are $20 to $75. There are also six soft leather accessories wholesaling from $25 to $125.

Herff projects retail sales this year will be $200,000 to $500,000. She is currently interviewing showrooms in New York and Los Angeles to represent the spring 2009 line.

“We are getting ready to grow our retail channel by going to market,” she said. “Since we came from these other industries that prepared us from the business and marketing side, we decided we wanted to grow it organically and see what the response was.”

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