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Macy’s Launches Threads & Heirs Collection

For Macy's first designer tie-up in the men's department, Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of Ruffian have designed about a third of the line.

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Macy’s first designer collaboration in men’s wear has hit the selling floor.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Threads & Heirs, a moderately priced main-floor collection targeted to the style-conscious man, is housed in a newly installed shop right inside the Seventh Avenue men’s store entrance at the company’s Herald Square flagship. The shop, which measures just less than 1,000 square feet, is brightly lit and features bold graphics and an assortment of updated sport shirts, T-shirts, jackets, casual pants and jeans. Prices range from $24 for a T-shirt to $99 for a jacket.

“This is for a consumer that we were just not servicing,” said Marc Mastronardi, group vice president and divisional merchandise manager of men’s sportswear and pants. Although he declined to provide a volume projection, he said: “I believe it has considerable upside potential. We have great collections but our main-floor sportswear has always been geared to an older customer. This allows us to have another exclusive brand, which is a critical part of our strategy.”

The main floor has traditionally been home to classification items such as dress shirts, neckwear and polo shirts, while Threads & Heirs is targeted to a 20- to 40-year-old, and is more contemporary, viewed as a “bridge between the traditional and neo-traditional brands,” according to Mastronardi.

The line is being showcased in 200 Macy’s stores for spring — most branches will devote around 600 square feet to the line — and will roll out to another couple of hundred doors for fall. Ultimately, he said, “we envision it as a brand we carry in all our stores.”

About one-third of the collection has been designed by Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of the high-end women’s label Ruffian. Although they got their start making men’s ties for Barneys New York, they’ve been focusing on women’s wear for the past five-plus years. But it didn’t take long to recapture the passion for men’s wear.

Mastronardi said Macy’s and Oxford Collections “put together the core pieces,” and Wolk and Morais “sprinkled in” more edgy offerings that have the same sensibility. For instance, while the core Threads & Heirs offers basic knit polos, the Ruffian version is washed, striped and has a white contrasting woven collar. The duo also designed a chambray woven shirt and a classic button-down shirt in a knit. And there’s also a short-sleeve plaid woven shirt with a button-up sleeve, a piece Wolz said is “my summer uniform.” All of the Ruffian-designed pieces have subtle identifiable details, such as the Ruffian name on the button and a separate logo.

He said he and Morais “believe in beautiful, classic men’s clothing” and have a “romantic vision of Americana” that is rife with “Fifties imagery,” but mingled with what they see “the kids from Williamsburg, [Brooklyn,] wearing on the L train.”

Wolk said when the samples arrived, “we dressed all of our friends because we wanted to see how it fits on real people. For us, that’s the final word.”

He said the line — both the Ruffian component and the core collection — “really masterminded a modern, young fit that competes with other fashion brands, but at a totally accessible price point.”

Mastronardi said the idea for Threads & Heirs took root about 18 months ago when Macy’s was looking for a label to provide trend-right, value-oriented fashion for “the grab-and-go” guy. That led the retailer to LF USA’s Oxford Collections, a subsidiary of Li & Fung Ltd., which is well known for its “quick speed and great capabilities.” New deliveries of Threads & Heirs will hit nearly every month, and “there’s a lot of read-and-react capabilities here, like at Zara or H&M. We can get back into something very quickly.”

Sales have been solid since the line made its debut on the main floor at Herald Square earlier this week and Mastronardi expects business to continue to strengthen after an official launch next week, with events planned for New York on Wednesday, Chicago on Thursday and San Francisco on Saturday.

To market the collection, Macy’s has run cover wraps in Metro and AM newspapers in New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco, as well as ads in magazines including GQ and Paper, on billboards and in Macy’s direct-mail initiatives. There’s also a social media component with a brand video on Facebook and YouTube, as well as Twitter.

The contract with Ruffian is for one year at which point Macy’s will reevaluate the relationship and decide whether to extend it or to find another, emerging designer to inject his or her voice into the line.

“The idea of a celebrity designer is part of the DNA of the brand,” Mastronardi said. “So that will continue.”

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