By  on December 27, 2010

Pendleton, a century-old brand steeped in Americana, is stepping out with a new line called Pendleton, The Portland Collection, for the bridge market. It will be unveiled in January for fall 2011 selling.

“This is a new strategy with a new consumer in mind,” Mort Bishop 3rd, president, Pendleton Woolen Mills, told WWD. “It’s more progressive in fashion. The fit is trimmer, for a younger customer — and it’s made in America.”

Perennial pleated skirts, wool plaids and Western wear are the heart of Pendleton, but The Portland Collection will have a designer feel, an urban sensibility and a versatility factor, Bishop said.

Pendleton hired three young designers, Nathaniel Crissman, Rachel Turk and John Blasioli, to create the line. They are all from Portland, Ore., where Pendleton is based. Crissman and Turk are the founders of the Church & State fashion label. Blasioli created stage outfits for the The Decemberists band before launching a men’s wear line, A Broken Spoke, which was shut to later launch an eponymous line.

However, The Portland Collection is not a complete departure from the Pendleton tradition. “We looked to classic Pendleton fabrics as the foundation for the collection,” Crissman said. “The archives served as a great inspiration, allowing us to tap into Pendleton’s heritage while bringing our point of view to the brand,” which he described as “contemporary, with an independent design spirit and a bit of irreverence.” He also said the collection will be made in the U.S., sticking to a Pendleton tradition.

“We tried to create pieces that you can wear to work and into the evening,” Crissman said. “For example, there’s one dress that’s sophisticated, with a detachable shearling collar. It might be too dramatic to wear at work, but you can take it off and put it back on at night to make a statement.”

The range includes dresses, priced around $200; outerwear such as $700 reversible jacquard coats as well as Toboggan coats, shirts in the $200 range, and ties at $78. There are also pants, dresses, knitwear, ponchos and accessories, such as shoulder bags.

Bishop hopes The Portland Collection captures interest from stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barneys Co-op, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. True Collaborative Fashion will represent Pendleton in marketing the line to retailers. The collection will also be at trade shows, and will stage a preview show in January at New York’s Ace Hotel.

The company has leveraged its heritage in recent collaborations with Nike, Vans, Hurley, Opening Ceremony, Timberland and Comme des Garçons to modernize the Pendleton image and capitalize on a recent resurgence of interest in the brand. “There’s a whole new generation of consumers, 25 to 45, drawn to the authenticity of Pendleton. There’s also a lot of interest from Japan’s fashion underground in American heritage brands,’’ said Bishop. “We don’t want to be on the sidelines. We want to do something, given this unusual opportunity.”

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