NEW YORK — Asher Levine is ready to bring his celebrity style to the masses.The designer, who has dressed everyone from Lady Gaga and Whoopi Goldberg to Will.i.am and Bruno Mars, has created his first commercial ready-to-wear collection for fall.The line will be shown by appointment during New York Fashion Week: Men’s, from Feb. 4 to 7, at a location on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.The shift in focus is part of a maturation of the label — which just snagged the women’s wear design award from Fashion Group International — that the now-29-year-old incorporated as a business in 2009.“I started sewing as a kid,” said the Florida native during an interview at his Harlem studio, “and was president of the 4-H Silly Stitchers.” He moved to New York right after graduating from high school to attend Pace University’s business school, where he studied entrepreneurship. During college, he started working in the industry, for Geoffrey Beene and other companies, before receiving a call from Nicola Formichetti, stylist for Lady Gaga, who reached out to discuss Levine designing something for the entertainer.He created an oversize leather biker jacket, and he was on his way.A version of that jacket has found a home in Levine’s fall collection, which includes a convertible zip wool-blend hoodie, a more-traditional lamb leather raglan moto jacket, a two-tone suede varsity jacket and a molded leather varsity jacket with an elaborate pattern that resembles reptile skin. “I call it Liquid Leather,” Levine explained.In addition to the statement outerwear, there are knit blazers with top stitch details and magnetic closures, textured cardigans, cargo pants with gusseted pockets and even a contemporary take on a dress shirt, complete with hidden snap placket, standing woven collar and emblem details.The initial collection consists of around 15 to 18 styles and around 35 stockkeeping units.Although Levine has operated independently since launching his brand, he now has some help.Thanks to his friendship with Goldberg, he was connected with Gary Wassner, chief executive officer of Hilldun Corp., the factoring firm, who had worked with the comedienne on her ugly Christmas sweater collection.“Whoopi fell in love with Asher,” Wassner said. “She was fascinated by his technique and felt he was incredibly creative.” Wassner agreed and decided to get involved, although he declined to say whether he had invested in the brand. “He combines street, grunge and luxe and I see him as a fresh voice,” he said. “We’re helping to find a retail home for the collection."But like a lot of creatives, Levine needed a little help on the business end, so Wassner brought in Mitch Naidrich, managing partner at jewelry brand Vita Fede and former vice president of Malibu Textile, to take care of the back-end.Naidrich helped Levine complete the collection, and contacted stores he believes would be the right place for the brand. And by showcasing the line during NYFW: Men’s, he hopes to help get the commercial collection off the ground.“We’re building a brand and a business, “ Naidrich said.
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