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Paul La Fontaine Launches Men’s Collection

Veteran men’s designer creates new contemporary apparel line, Paul La Fontaine Lounge.

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Designer Paul La Fontaine is hoping the third time’s a charm.

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The veteran men’s designer, who has held design director posts at brands like BCBG and Claiborne, is launching an eponymous label for spring 2010, following two previous efforts earlier in his career.

The expansive men’s contemporary collection is produced in partnership with the Hong Kong–based manufacturing company D-Signs Inc. Ltd.

“It’s sexy but wearable, and downtown cool without being overly aggressive,” noted La Fontaine of his designs, which are being sold under the Paul La Fontaine Lounge moniker. A higher-priced Paul La Fontaine Collection brand is planned down the road.

Suits in the collection are merchandised as separates, with jackets retailing for $375 and pants for $175. Woven shirts are $135 to $195, denim is $150 to $195, sweaters are $90 to $225, outerwear is $395 to $595 and leather pieces are $695 to $750. The overarching aesthetic is one of American classicism melded with European flair, as evidenced in the clean lines of a sharply tailored suit and the elegant expressiveness of a voile shirt with a bold floral print.

Fabrics are sourced from both Europe and Asia, with almost all the pieces made in the factories of D-Signs Inc. Ltd, except for knits. The line is sold out of New York’s Market Showroom.

D-Signs Inc. is a company set up by factory owner Derek Tsang to produce the Paul La Fontaine collection. Tsang’s Hong Kong facilities have in the past done work for clients like Donna Karan, Hugo Boss, Badgley Mischka, J. Crew and Coach.

“I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’ve always wanted to work on my own brand,” said Tsang, who got to know La Fontaine when the two worked together on the aborted BCBG Attitude men’s sportswear launch in 2006.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, La Fontaine launched his first label, a denim and sportswear collection called Cappuccino Club, in his early 20s with the backing of the Australian distributor of French Connection. After a short run of success, the line fizzled out and La Fontaine went on to design jobs at JAG, All Saints in London and then Claiborne in New York.

In 2002 he struck out on his own with the first incarnation of the Paul La Fontaine label, which lasted for eight seasons and was sold at a number of major accounts including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s West, Nordstrom and Printemps. When that collection closed due to financial pressures, La Fontaine was tapped by BCBG Max Azria Group to launch a men’s sportswear line under the BCBG Attitude label. The debut collection was sold into about 100 stores for the spring 2007 season, but the company decided to shelve the project before the product came to retail.

For the past two years, La Fontaine has worked at Italy’s John Richmond and David Mayer brands, the latter of which he continues to consult for.

As part of the spring Paul La Fontaine launch, the designer has created a sublabel called 72 Hours, which is a capsule collection of travel-friendly pieces made from technical Japanese and Korean fabrics that are both wrinkle and water resistant. The line is priced 15 to 20 percent higher than the Paul La Fontaine Lounge range.

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