NEW YORK — Isaac Mizrahi is back in the better sportswear game at department stores.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Xcel Brands Inc., which embarked on a licensing spree for Mizrahi last fall, has signed an exclusive agreement with The Jump Apparel Group here to manufacture and distribute sportswear, dresses and suiting under the Isaac Mizrahi New York brand. The collections, which will be geared to the better market, will be introduced for spring 2013 retailing.


Since Xcel Brands acquired Mizrahi’s licensing business in September for $31.5 million, the company has inked 31 licensing deals in 70 categories, including handbags, eyewear, shoes, fragrance and men’s wear. This fall, the designer will introduce collections for accessories, denim, home, outerwear, bridalwear, infantwear, housewares, tabletop and the kitchen bearing the Isaac Mizrahi New York label.

In an interview Monday, Mizrahi said he’s excited about the prospect of designing for the better market and bringing his design sensibility to that customer. “[The customer] attributes a great deal to value in that category. So do I. I notice the quality and how great something looks. I’ll try to bring [fashion] forward even more.”

Mizrahi said color will be important in the various apparel collections. “You can’t get enough color. Now for me, it’s so gratifying that everyone really wants color. It’s one of my strongest suits. The brand stands for color. I think one thing I’ll always try to bring to the party is a classic, ageless wit.”

Although Mizrahi has designed sportswear for a mainstream audience before, this will mark the first time he is designing suits for the better market. “The idea is that there is a new suit out there. Everyone loves a blazer and skirt, and I’ll be making those, but I see a Windbreaker suit, a mismatched suit. I see a lot of ways to offer a new suit in wool blends, stretch cottons and French terry,” said Mizrahi.

“It’s very exciting. Things are moving much faster than we thought,” said Robert D’Loren, chairman and chief executive officer of Xcel Brands. He said the company has a design team that includes 28 full-time designers and a chief merchant overseeing all the Mizrahi products.

D’Loren said he looked at all the players out there and got excited about the fact that Jump had domestic production capability. “Inventory management is critical,” said D’Loren, and the fact that Jump could source in the U.S. clinched the deal. D’Loren declined to reveal first-year sales. He said the lines would be housed in better areas of department stores and would be priced competitively to Michael Michael Kors and Lauren by Ralph Lauren.

The Jump Apparel Group, which was founded by Glenn Schlossberg in 1990, produces 11 women’s brands ranging from moderately priced to better dresses and sportswear for juniors, misses’, petite and plus sizes, to career, casualwear, evening and special occasion. The company ships more than four million garments a year with more than half its production in the U.S. Among its labels are Blu Sage, Onyx Nite, Scooter Top, Jump Girl, Marina and Annalee + Hope.

Schlossberg, ceo, told WWD he was drawn to the Mizrahi name.

“The number-one appeal was brand recognition. Everyone knows Isaac Mizrahi. He has sophisticated, clean styling and it matched up with our company’s theme,” said Schlossberg. He said the Mizrahi better-price collections would be introduced in the August market to retailers. He’s targeting stores such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Nordstrom. Price points haven’t been set yet, he added.

Throughout his career, Mizrahi has designed for several different price levels in the women’s market. He began with his own designer collection that was financed by Chanel Inc. He then went on to a successful partnership with Target, where he designed a collection for the mass retailer until 2008, when the volume was estimated to be $300 million.