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Laundry by Shelli Segal Plans Comeback

Perry Ellis International projects sales growth of 30 percent for 2009.

Laundry By Shelli Segal is back.

After buying the dress brand from Liz Claiborne Inc. in February, Perry Ellis International dumped the more urban Laundry By Design concept and resuscitated the colorful Laundry By Shelli Segal for spring 2009. After retailers reviewed the line last week, the company is projecting sales growth of 30 percent for 2009.

“Challenging times are the best time to take market share away,” said Oscar Feldenkreis, Perry Ellis president and chief operating officer. “It’s all about product and on top of that, we have a great brand. We’re excited to be in women’s because retailers are starving for excitement.”

Perry Ellis moved the label’s headquarters back to Los Angeles from New York, where the brand had relocated two years ago, and it has brought back the original 14-person design team, minus only Shelli Segal, who is acting as a consultant. Claudia Cordic, who worked alongside Segal for years, has returned as vice president of design and creative director.

“We all dissipated when the brand started going down a route we didn’t agree with, and when we got the call from Oscar [Feldenkreis], every member of our team dropped what we were doing to come back,” said Cordic, who in the interim worked for The Warnaco Group Inc. as vice president of design for swimwear. “I’m very fortunate to have been mentored by Shelli Segal — I started working at Laundry in the early Nineties about six months after Shelli started — and she always encouraged me to design with a sense of humor, wit and charm. I think about her every single day as I’m working.”

Last week in the brand’s New York showroom, Perry Ellis hosted an event to celebrate the spring relaunch of Laundry By Shelli Segal in a room full of color, embellishments and body-conscious silhouettes. The line is in stark contrast to the neutral palette of the Laundry By Design line.

“We had lost the vision of the consumer, when everything became covered up and lost the flirty, feminine L.A. edge our customer knows us for,” said Cynthia Erland, vice president of marketing. “This is the return to the vibrant, feminine girl who’s not as serious as the Laundry By Design customer.”

The wholesale price range remains about the same, from approximately $100 to $200.

At its peak in 1999, when Claiborne bought the company, Laundry did $90 million to $100 million in wholesale volume, though that included sportswear, which the brand no longer makes. The dress line at its peak did as much as $45 million before sliding to a valley of about $15 million last year.

“It was a fast zip down on the retail side,” said Veronica Davis, senior vice president of merchandising. “We’ve brought back all of the components that were part of our recipe for our success five or six years ago, and our challenge now is to get our customer back.”

Davis projects that in 2009 the relaunched brand will do $25 million to $28 million in wholesale volume. The line is projected to be in 200 doors, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s West. The company is also working with specialty stores to create exclusive product for smaller stores so they aren’t directly competing with department stores.

“You’ll see a lot of our prior customers will come back to us,” said Feldenkreis, adding that Neiman Marcus and some Macy’s doors had dropped the line in the last 18 months.

Laundry, which will move its New York showroom out of the Liz Claiborne building and into Eileen Fisher’s old space at 530 Seventh Avenue, is contemplating adding sportswear and swimwear for spring 2010. For licensed categories, the brand already has coats, and is considering adding fragrance and accessories.

Perry Ellis is also looking for licensing partners to open Laundry retail doors in other regions of the world, including the Middle East and Mexico, according to Feldenkreis. “There are lots of opportunities now that the product is right,” he said.