By  on April 23, 2008

LOS ANGELES — Contemporary designer Geren Lockhart is reaching beyond boutiques and stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York to cultivate a younger, equally fashion-forward, but more price-conscious customer — the Urban Outfitters shopper.

The specialty retailer has tapped the Los Angeles-based designer of the Geren Ford line, as well as Steven Alan, Charlotte Ronson, Paul & Joe Sister and Corpus, to design mini collections.

The first collaboration to hit stores will be Hawks by Geren Ford in May, followed by back-to-school and holiday collections in August and December.

The collection includes cotton drawstring jackets, knit camis, silk tops and cotton blend dresses inspired by the 35-year-old Lockhart's contemporary line, as well as younger styles "that would otherwise never see the light of day," she said. "This allows me to articulate ideas and reach a certain customer that I can't with my contemporary line. Now I have the opportunity to step into offshore production and mass sourcing and make those things possible."

Retail price points for Hawks by Geren Ford range from $48 to $128, about a quarter of the price of Geren Ford ($98 to $547 wholesale), but still 30 percent higher than Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters' average.

"We admire designers who have a downtown feel even though they fit into uptown markets," said Urban Outfitters' general merchandise manager Jim Brett, adding that a multidesigner collaboration on this scale is a first for the company. "Unlike the deliveries, which will be staggered, the choice of designers was very scientific for us. Each one has its role, from street to feminine to sexy to unisex."

There are no sales projections, but the company has bought deep into each style and plans to add to its roster of designers, he said.

The Hawks hangtag, which reads, "Start in Texas. Skip to California. Head to New York. Jump Overseas. And Repeat," reflects Lockhart's well-traveled upbringing and lifestyle. A former art buyer, commercial director rep and stylist, she left the advertising industry in 2006 to concentrate on a ready-to-wear collection that had grown out of a loungewear business she started in 2002. Comprising silk separates, sweaters, suitings and wool and leather jackets, the line is carried in 250 stores in 16 countries, including Nordstrom nationwide, Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Vakko in Istanbul.The company has grown from $200,000 in sales in 2005 to a projected $5 million to $8 million for 2008. "Contemporary didn't exist when I started, now it's everywhere," said Lockhart, whose goal is to expand into bags, shoes, sunglasses, watches and home accessories through manufacturing partners and a possible equity partner in the company. "I've done my homework on all possible expansion avenues, and I hope to be at $30 million in the next five years."

At the moment, she's polishing off her fourth Hawks collection and holiday for her signature line. Her inspirations? Brightly hued exotic beetles to Twiggy.

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