Eva Mendes is carving out a fiefdom at New York & Co.
The actress, whose namesake Eva Mendes by New York & Co. line launched at the specialty retailer in 2013, is for spring adding bridal, shoes, handbags and an expanded range of jewelry to her existing collection of dresses and separates.
Mendes in May will introduce Eva Mini, a capsule collection for girls ages 6 months to four years. The actress may have had babies on the brain — she and longtime partner Ryan Gosling welcomed a daughter in September.
New York & Co. is investing in the brand. A television commercial featuring Mendes will begin airing this month in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. “Our hope is to bring it to our best markets,” said Greg Scott, chief executive officer of New York & Co. “We have a jewel, Eva Mendes, so let’s market that.”
Mendes’ collection, which is available in all New York & Co. stores and online, is being showcased in six side-by-side boutiques ranging in size from 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet. The shops, dubbed the World of Eva, opened on Wednesday with separate entrances and dressing rooms. “Eva has a different unique collection and aesthetic that we wanted to see,” Scott said of the boutiques, which have clean lines, are merchandised by color and occasion, and feature life-sized photos of Mendes wearing the collection. “She’s so powerful as a brand, we thought it was the right time to look at it. Who knows about freestanding stores,” Scott said, while not ruling them out.
While Eva Mendes by New York & Co. is still a small percentage of New York & Co.’s total business — it’s in the single digits in most stores and double digits in the chain’s top 20 units — “it really overpenetrates online, where it does double-digits,” Scott said.
Mendes, who’ll appear next month in “Lost River,” a film directed by Gosling, doesn’t consider herself a designer, but has distinct style and knows what makes women look good. “I wear everything and use everything in the line,” she said. “I’d never design something I wouldn’t wear myself.”
To make the point, she picked up the new faux leather crossbody handbag. “This is not a design flaw, but I noticed that the bag stays open and everybody can see your business,” Mendes said, making a mental note to tweak the bag next time.
“The more people I can get product to, the better,” Mendes said. “We live in a really fun time, with the H&Ms taking over. Now, it’s cool to find a bargain. Growing up I was embarrassed that my family could only afford inexpensive clothing.” Most of the apparel is priced under $100: T-strap shoes are $59.95 and wedges, $69.95. The crossbody handbag is $69.95, the Venezia handbag with chain detail, $59.95.
“She’s so involved; it’s so much her style and aesthetic,” Scott said. “She was on the turban before it even started and she was on the full skirt. We couldn’t sell a full skirt before Eva. She has a point of view that’s very retail oriented. When we go to a meeting with her she has a ton of ideas and inspiration.”
Mendes said she’s inspired by old photos of her mother taken in Fifties Cuba. “Her waist was always cinched and her hair was always done. I find that romantic. I look for photos of women who aren’t the usual suspects. I love Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale, but also Daliah Lavi, who was a beautiful Israeli actress. I find patterns in my own closet. If I see a Goodwill or Salvation Army, I try to get the goods.”
Scott said that Mendes is “the jumping-off point for our whole subbrand strategy. We believe we have an opportunity for unique subbrands — the Seventh Avenue suiting collection, SoHo jeans and Love NYC, an ath-leisure brand.”
Scott said there’s also an opportunity to grow the sportswear component of Eva Mendes by New York & Co., which is driven by sweaters and tops.