By  on July 9, 2008

TORRANCE, Calif. — Start your engines. Alpinestars, the Italian clothing brand that has outfitted race car drivers and motorcyclists for 45 years, is entering the U.S. women’s sportswear wholesale business for fall.

Eyeing the young contemporary shopper who covets on-point trends at reasonable prices, the company is offering everything that a woman needs to look as if she’s a motor sports aficionado — even if she doesn’t know how to ride a bike.

A T-shirt retailing for $50 is emblazoned with the phrase “Alpinestars Motorcycle Club.” Waxed jeans costing less than $90 can be tucked into chunky boots and paired with a $160 fake leather moto jacket. A $50 leather belt may be looped around a $90 cotton plaid shirtdress modeled after a mechanic’s uniform. A $100 pencil skirt crafted from raw denim sewn on the reverse side so that the indigo is inside is aimed at experimental trendsetters.

“It’s a line for a girl who has an edge to her,” said Alpinestars designer Denise Focil, as she unveiled new looks from the company’s holiday and early spring collections while stepping gingerly around a custom-made motorcycle set in the center of the company’s showroom here. “It was always a dream of ours from the beginning [to offer women’s sportswear]. Our girl, this edgy dangerous girl, has always been there in the boutique market.”

Alpinestars, with 350 workers at its headquarters in Asolo, Italy, near Venice, employs 50 people in the U.S. The company runs an office for product development and design in Agoura Hills, Calif., and one for sales and administration in Torrance. To support its new women’s business, Alpinestars hired a four-person sales team targeting boutiques. It also employs a graphic designer and a couple of product developers working with Focil, who is married to the owner of Alpinestars, Gabriele Mazzarolo.

Focil said Alpinestars aims to hit $2 million in wholesale sales for the women’s business in the first year, or about one-tenth of what the four-year-old men’s line generates each year. The company posts a total of $180 million in annual wholesale revenue, Focil said.

Although Alpinestars’ roots are in Europe, the company decided to launch women’s apparel in the U.S. because its design team is based here, Focil said. The apparel follows the introduction of handbags two years ago. Focil said the firm plans to offer the women’s line in Europe as soon as 2010.

The moto-inspired trend is gaining momentum in fashion. For instance, Stefano Pilati added sass to his fall lineup for Yves Saint Laurent with an asymmetric hem on a brown motorcycle jacket, and Los Angeles-based Pratt’s Motor Spirit tricks out classic leather motorcycle pants in distressed denim. What differentiates Alpinestars is the combination of an authentic moto heritage with comfort and retail prices that average between $100 and $110.

As such, Alpinestars struck a chord with retailer Jackie Brander, who ordered its fall lineup for Fred Segal Fun in Santa Monica, Calif.

“It sort of has a cool element of streetwear but done in a way that is more cozy,” said Brander, adding that she was fond of the leather jacket with sweater insets and the sherpa-lined hoodies. “At my store, comfort and fashion have to go hand in hand.”

Even if some customers veer from the moto trend, Alpinestars said its business has staying power.

“For us, it’s a way of life. It’s not going to come and go,” Focil said. “As long as there’s a need for speed and [women] being young and fierce, we’re in business.”

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