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BOSTON — Cheap chic discounter Target keeps pushing the price envelope with apparel that’s more chic, less cheap.
The Luella for Target collection, British designer Luella Bartley’s mass market debut and the Minneapolis-based retailer’s first offering in its Go International limited-edition apparel program, hit stores Wednesday for a 90-day run that will last through April.
Six custom racks with built-in mirrors, papered as if covered in black-and-white airline stickers, held $24.99 tulip-shaped miniskirts, $39.99 jeans with star appliqués and a $149.99 pale blue suede jacket.
The pricing is Target’s test of its customers’ willingness and ability to spend. For similar items, Luella was priced 50 to 70 percent higher than the retailer’s Mossimo brand, which had jeans at $22.99 and swim separates at $12.99. The jackets, available in two colors of suede or distressed black leather, break a new price barrier for Target apparel, which had previously set a high of about $100 for cashmere sweaters and other specialty items.
“It’s cute,” David Wolfe, creative director of trend forecaster The Doneger Group, said of Bartley’s work. “The merchandise can certainly stand alone, which it has to [do] because I doubt anyone who goes in to Target actually knows who Luella Bartley is.”
Bartley has had New York runway shows, but receives limited coverage from mainstream fashion glossies and tabloids such as Us Weekly. Limited-edition programs from design stars Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney at H&M have been commercial and public relations home runs.
The Bartley hangtags, featuring a double-decker bus bearing a Target bull’s-eye logo, give a summary of her background, describing her as a former fashion editor with a design aesthetic “like Joey Ramone meets Gidget.”
Wolfe cited the net handbags, cherry-print clutch and plastic cuffs and chunky necklaces as standouts. Bartley’s offering is well rounded, with dresses, swim, jackets and jeans. It’s particularly heavy on miniskirts, cropped schoolboy-style jackets and Eighties references that sometimes might be too literal — as in a black-and-white striped shirt with an attached skinny tie to be paired with cigarette suspender pants.