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Mary J. Blige Connects With Malandrino

Catherine Malandrino and Mary J. Blige launch their cobranded t-shirt collection next week.

In keeping with her belief that clothes can empower women, Catherine Malandrino has teamed up with her friend Mary J. Blige to cobrand a T-shirt collection that will strive to do just that.

Their new label, FFAWN + Catherine Malandrino, features tunics with hand-painted messages such as “I’m Free” and “I’m Power.” The collection will hit stores next week. As a nine-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 65 million records, Blige knows the impact of making an appearance. But the one she and Malandrino have penciled in for Feb. 17 at Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan is geared to drum up attention for FFAWN, Foundation for the Achievement of Women Now, the charity she started in 2008.

The pair first joined forces in fall 2001, when Blige performed at a Malandrino fashion show at the Apollo Theater. Malandrino said she was drawn to Blige’s motivating anthems, as well as her beauty and strength. “As a designer, I feel I have a role to play. What I want is to free women,” she said. “Femininity is a strength and not a weakness.”

Malandrino, who serves on FFAWN’s board of directors, and Blige will greet shoppers at Bloomingdale’s new 350-square-foot Catherine Malandrino concept shop. The off-the-shoulder tops, which retail starting at $39, will also be sold in the designer’s freestanding stores, and a percentage of all sales will benefit FFAWN. Additional styles will play up an abstract illustration of a phoenix and the FFAWN logo.

Blige said she and Malandrino coined the phrase “T-luxe” to describe the shirts. “Even better, every woman can feel beautiful and comfortable rocking these Ts just about anywhere,” Blige said.

“Catherine has been a dear friend of mine for years and, after she learned about FFAWN and our mission, she offered to create a T-shirt collection that would celebrate being women, being strong and being free. These are not your average T-shirts,” she said.

Frank Doroff, vice chairman and general merchandise manager of Bloomingdale’s, said, “This was the perfect time since Bloomingdale’s is building a new shop dedicated to Catherine Malandrino. We have always loved her designs and been great partners. We are thrilled to be supporting Mary J Blige’s organization, FFAWN, and showing our customers that giving is just as stylish as receiving.”

Next week’s event wont be the first time Malandrino and Blige have supported eachother. The duo have made a point of propping each other up before pivotal events. Blige routinely sends a few kind words Malandrino’s way before her runway shows. “It is really a quick note to let me know she is thinking of me. I try to do the same for her,” Malandrino said. “This makes for a very important moment of warmth and empowerment for me. I don’t know if empowerment will happen for certain this time [Sunday will be Malandrino’s presentation during New York Fashion Week], but I am expecting it.”