By  on March 30, 2012

NEW YORK — Original Penguin by Munsingwear, traditionally known as more of a guy’s brand, is now courting the girlfriends, too.

While the brand always had a smattering of women’s wear in the past, the mix never extended beyond a few basics — a polo shirt here, a sweater there — and lacked a distinct fashion point of view to set it apart from other contemporary lines. The Perry Ellis International-owned brand is hoping to change that with a full women’s collection, beginning with fall, which it unveiled at a preview at its SoHo boutique in New York on Wednesday morning.

“We expanded our retail store base in the U.S., and are constantly getting requests from store managers who say that this girl loves product,” said Ann Payne, creative director and senior vice president, design and merchandising. “They love what they buy for their boyfriend or husband, and they want to see more product. There was this need, and we felt we could create something for this girl.”

For fall, the company added outerwear, dresses, sweaters and skirts that complement the men’s mix. “This guy is very cool, but he’s approachable,” Payne said. “He is not afraid of color, and he has a lot of wit about how he dresses himself. He is an individual. We feel the girl is somewhat the same. She might mix up her look with vintage pieces.”

The overall effect of the fall lineup is eclectic with plenty of girl-next-door charm. Case in point, a bright floral print dress with a silk tie detail at the neck or a bright red bouclé swing coat and another coat in a buffalolike check with a funnel neck teamed with a polka-dot silk shirt dress. Lace appliqué details and fun striped high-heeled sneakers add to the lineup’s feel.

There are no immediate plans to wholesale the collection; instead, the retail strategy will focus on the brand’s 48 freestanding stores, 18 of which are in the U.S.

“We feel that launching this women’s collection in our stores gives us the opportunity to show and merchandise it as we see it, as a full collection,” said Payne, who didn’t disclose sales projections. Retail price points for the dresses range from $125 to $189; outerwear from $198 to $298; sweaters from $89 to $110, and skirts from $98 to $110.

Erica Feldenkreis, women’s merchandiser, added that the women’s pieces will be displayed prominently in the stores. “We will be working with visual merchandisers to make sure it looks like a full collection, and there will be mannequins in the window and throughout the store,” she said.

Emily Bohonos, vice president of marketing, added that social media will play a key role in the launch, with plans to do outreach to find brand ambassadors. “The strategy is two-pronged,” Bohonos said. “As we launch in retail stores, we have a localized strategy for markets that have our retail stores, and, as it will be available online, we will also target girls who like to shop online.”

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