WWD.com/retail-news/retail-features/a-new-meister-plan-for-suits-573092/

NEW YORK — It appears that Neiman Marcus will be well-suited with David Meister.

The designer, who is best known for day and evening dresses and, more recently, sportswear, is launching a collection of suits exclusive to the retailer.

At the end of June the Kellwood-owned company will ship its first delivery to 30 Neiman’s doors, and the plan is to increase the distribution to 35 doors for spring 2006. Neiman’s has the exclusive for one year.

“We have a very close working relationship with David, and we have a great belief in his talent,” said Ann Stordahl, Neiman’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager. “We have had terrific success with his dresses. He really understands fabric, print and construction. He launched a sportswear collection and really has perfected the art of constructing a jacket, so it’s like a natural to ask him to do a suit.”

Two years ago, Neiman’s approached Meister with the idea for the suits. He designed about 20 styles, and the retailer picked 12 looks for the first three months of selling.

The suit collection features details such as handbeaded touches on pockets or lapels and printed silk linings. “The silk linings give the suits a softer structure,” said Penny Aschkenasy, president of ENC, the Kellwood division that includes the Meister brand.

Key looks include a gray pinstripe suit with ribbon pocket details, a men’s wear plaid suit with print silk lining and jeweled buttons and a mixed-fabric suit with sheer extended sleeves under the jacket to create a ruffle effect.

“The suits are really an extension of our day dresses, and target that same customer,” said Aschkenasy. “They are disguised as modern and ladylike, but they are really sexy and whimsical. That’s really the profile of the customer.”

Stordahl added: “He is using embroideries, bows and novelty buttons on traditional fabrics like pinstripes and herringbones….It gives the career customer a very fresh alternative.”

Wholesale prices range from $289 to $359. Both Stordahl and Aschkenasy declined to disclose sales projections, but an industry source said a line of this nature could have sales of $10 million in three years.

This story first appeared in the May 31, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We see this as a big opportunity,” Stordahl said. “We are seeing tremendous growth in his other categories, so there is every reason to believe there would be a similar growth here.”

Two of the suits will be featured in Neiman’s September Book, and two suits will appear on the store’s Web site each month.

“Our plan is to roll it out to other stores, but I am sure we will be revisiting that with Neiman’s at that time,” Aschkenasy said, adding that the next product extension will most likely be handbags and shoes. “It’s all adding up to this lifestyle brand we want to create.”