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In 1986, when Macy’s introduced the private label Alfani, an obvious play on the Armani name, it was hard to take it seriously.

This story first appeared in the May 10, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But the brand has grown from just men’s wear originally to women’s sportswear beginning in 1998, and to becoming an important point of distinction for Macy’s in the battle to win over working women who might also be shopping Talbots, Ann Taylor, Chico’s and other department stores.

For fall, “There’s a whole new design sensibility based on what women are looking for,” said Nancy Slavin, senior vice president of marketing for the Macy’s Merchandising Group. The term “career” is no longer part of the fashion vernacular and the look has moved away from traditional office attire. “The customer is really looking for separates and sportswear, not the old-fashioned suits,” Slavin said. “It’s the six easy pieces that all work together so she can use it by day and go out at night. They’re modern sportswear separates.”

In addition, Alfani for women is being rolled out to 600 doors for fall, from around 500, Macy’s said.

Classic white blouses remain central to the collection, but with changes. “It’s a reinvented classic with a lot of style so she can take that jacket off at night and be more feminine,” Slavin said. Details and embellishments are emphasized. Sheath dresses, items in black, shoes and accessories also are among the core elements, including footwear designed with “Step n’ Flex” technology with flexibility and padding in soles for greater comfort. Booties, high pumps, lace-up booties and mary janes, as well as long necklaces, layering and mixed metals, are key trends.

Alfani targets 25- to 50-year-old women in or about to enter the workforce, who might be altering their shopping habits. “She’s not going to a prototypical suit department because she is looking for more fashion and versatility of pieces that give her a multitude of looks,” Slavin said. With Alfani, “if she buys five or six pieces, she can have four or five looks.”

Alfani typically is displayed adjacent to Michael Kors and Jones in better sportswear, and is offered in misses, petites and large sizes. Jackets are priced $79 to $99; pants, $59 to $69; dresses, $79 to $99; skirts, $49 to $59, and tops, $49 to $69. Each month, 40 to 50 styles are offered, for a total of about 300 to 400 a season.

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