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Lane Bryant, the nation’s biggest women’s specialty retailer for sizes 14 to 28, is expanding its offering of value-priced, plus-size designer apparel by linking with Sophie Theallet for a lingerie line, WWD has learned.
This story first appeared in the March 18, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Theallet collection will hit Lane Bryant stores in the fall and be marketed under Lane Bryant’s lingerie brand, Cacique.
“We wanted something a little risqué,” said Linda Heasley, chief executive officer of Lane Bryant, which is a division of the $4.5 billion Ascena Retail Group Inc. “When I saw Sophie’s fashion show, I saw so much that could be translated to Cacique. The French aesthetic is so important to the lingerie category.”
Theallet, the French designer who in the past worked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaïa, represents Lane Bryant’s second designer collaboration, the first being with Isabel and Ruben Toledo. The Toledos launched T-shirts and totes at the 800-unit Lane Bryant chain and Web site last fall and this season introduced a full collection. The retailer is holding a runway show for the Toledo collection on Thursday at the Seagram Building in New York.
Lane Bryant long had a reputation for dowdy, moderate-priced merchandise, some regarded as “tonnage.” Ascena Retail Group acquired the retailer through its $890 million buyout of Charming Shoppes Inc. in 2012, also picking up Catherine’s Plus Sizes through the deal and shedding other parts of Charming that it didn’t want. The deal spawned a new approach to plus sizes that is being supported by Ascena, which also operates the Dress Barn, Maurices, Catherines and Justice chains.
“We want to bring something special to our clients, and show that she doesn’t have to be excluded from what many women enjoy,” Heasley said. “Beautiful clothing should not be limited to size 12 and under.” Between the Toledo and Theallet launches, “We hope this helps change the view.”
She also cited the possibility of building a designer stable. “We are talking to some other people but nothing has been landed on yet,” she said.
The Theallet lingerie will also have some higher prices than what Lane Bryant typically offers. “It’s marginally more expensive,” Heasley noted. “Some of the detailing makes it more special, but we tried very hard to keep the prices within the range of the brand. We still want to be affordable for this client.”
Heasley cited Theallet’s aesthetic as exuding femininity, a surprising combination of colors and prints, beautiful draping and detailing. Precisely how the label on the collection will read is to be determined. The merchandise will be presented as a capsule collection in the stores, with advertising, windows and editors’ previews planned. Theallet is designing for Lane Bryant through spring 2015 with an option to continue after that. The designs in the collection will debut with floral patterns, satin chemises and lace-trim garter skirts, among other intimate pieces. Panties are priced at $19.95; bras, $56.50; corsets, $108; garter skirts, $55.50, and sleepwear will range from $39.95 to $109. Lane Bryant sells sizes 14 to 28.