“The line has performed,” said Liz Sweney, J.C. Penney’s chief merchant officer. “The design resonates. The fit has always been consistent. There’s always newness and deliveries every month.”
Sweney said nicole by Nicole Miller was launched in 2005 in response to customers seeking “chic, versatile clothing associated with a renowned runway designer….It was the first time Nicole designed an exclusive line for a department store and it has grown to be a full lifestyle brand offering everything from dresses and handbags to fashion jewelry and eyewear,” Sweney said.
“Nicole has been very consistent with what she designs and who her core customer is,” said Siiri Dougherty, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, who pegged the targeted customer for nicole by Nicole Miller as 35- to 50-year-old women.
On Sept. 4, J.C. Penney’s marks 10 years of selling nicole by Nicole Miller by launching an anniversary collection that will be available until supplies last. The collection, with 34 pieces, will be called out with special hangtags and temporary shops situated front and center in about 600 stores, next to the more casual, denim-based a.n.a. private brand collection, which happened to be introduced around the same time. Typically, nicole by Nicole Miller is displayed on the contemporary pad by two other exclusive brands, I Heart Ronson, and Bisou Bisou. Penney’s declined to discuss volume for nicole by Nicole Miller.
The anniversary shops will display ready-to-wear and accessories, including pieces embellished with beading, feather and faux fur-trim, evening-inspired items and a full array of the designer’s colorful gem stone prints. City jackets, pencil skirts, ankle pants, leggings, intarsia sweaters and sheath dresses will retail from $38 to $120 and are adorned with tribal prints and scroll patterns in gem stone hues of purple, blue and yellow on black. There are also leopard prints, black-and-white combinations, as well as an array of handbags, earrings, necklaces, scarves and stationery, notebooks and calendars.
About 600 Penney’s stores will sell the anniversary apparel and jewelry, and about 1,000 stores will carry anniversary handbags. The collection will also be sold on jcp.com.
Nicole by Nicole Miller was launched after the company got a better handle on what women wanted from the store and weren’t getting. The common complaint was that Penney’s apparel was either too young in look or lacked proper fit, and that “versatile, relevant” clothes were wanted. Some consumers felt they were the “missing middle,” meaning they were overlooked by J.C. Penney’s and its merchandising.
“It didn’t matter what city we went to. These woman described themselves this way,” said Sweney, who said five cities were visited and in each, officials conducted “shopalongs” with women and visited their homes to see what they had in their closets, and learn what they liked and disliked.
After figuring out what Penney’s needed, the store’s merchants approached several designers to create a exclusive brand. “Nicole got it right away and understood how to reach a lot of women,” Sweney recalled.
Initially, the line was produced through a third-party licensing arrangement because Nicole Miller’s team was unsure they could meet the distribution needs of the hundreds of Penney stores. Eventually, it was brought in-house to Nicole Miller, which the designer said has helped to sustain the brand at Penney’s. Miller’s penchant for personal appearances and social media has furthered the cause. That continues Tuesday night with a media event at the Refinery Hotel in Manhattan.