By  on November 8, 2010

Freed of the corporate constraints of the Otto Group, Apart has arrived in the U.S. as a freestanding entity aimed at a younger customer.

Apart, which was launched in 1977, was one of the German catalogue giant’s biggest fashion brands. Earlier this year, Apart International separated from Otto when Bernd Houillon, a 35-year Otto veteran, acquired all the shares in Apart through a management buyout. The brand does $150 million in annual volume and is wholesaled in 25 countries.

Positioned as a bridge collection, Apart produces 2,500 styles each season, including sportswear, swimwear, lingerie, outerwear, eveningwear, handbags and shoes. The brand tries to pack a lot of fashion into each item, while keeping prices affordable.

For example, a silver perforated leather jacket is $140; a white draped dress, $150; an open weave cashmere sweater, $138; black leggings with leather panels at the knees, $98, and a long butter-soft leather coat, $600. “In Germany, Apart is positioned against Caché and Marc Cain,” said Francesco Cardoletti, chief executive officer of Apart U.S.

Apart, which operates in Russia through wholesale partners, has established a French e-commerce site and opened stores in Bulgaria and Latvia. Houillon, who is Apart’s ceo, bought all the shares in the French and Russian companies, as well.

“With the recent management buyout, our brand has been freed,” said Cardoletti. “Wholesale was our first step, but the way the industry is going, e-commerce is taking a more dominant role,” added Murat Goker, who is president and chairman. launched this month.

Apart is expected to do $6 million to $8 million in sales through e-commerce in its first year in the U.S., and wholesale in America will contribute $7 million to $8 million, the executives said.

Cardoletti said Apart no longer fit within Otto’s stable of brands. “The quality of Apart started to increase to where it didn’t suit their other products,” he said. Apart, which is designed in Germany, has an agreement that allows it to continue to leverage Otto’s resources such as sourcing, logistics and production. “This definitely helps us keep our prices low,” said Rosemary Gura, marketing director. “It is a great benefit to have the support of Otto in this manner. Apart manufactures in the East, but a large percentage of our clothing is made in Turkey, Germany, Italy and Spain.”

Apart is attuned to the differences between European and American consumers. “In Europe, the brand targets relatively older customers because it began as a catalogue business,” said Cardoletti. “For the U.S., we wanted the brand to be younger. The clothes are more up-to-date and have more attitude.”

“Apart has been very successful in Germany and other EU countries, but the patterns, cuts and fabrics that work well there may not resonate with women here,” Gura said. “We’ll be working with our German team to help drive the design for the U.S. collection. We aren’t just bringing a European brand to the U.S., but really tailoring our collections for the American market.”

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