Eva Mendes at the Golden Globes

The actress has signed a multiyear agreement that includes launching a subbrand bearing her name and becoming the retailer’s ambassador.

NEW YORK — Eva Mendes is joining forces with New York & Company Inc.

The actress, known for her body-conscious red carpet style, has signed a multiyear agreement with New York & Co. that includes launching a subbrand bearing her name and becoming the retailer’s ambassador, including featuring in advertising campaigns, making appearances for the brand and interfacing with consumers.

This story first appeared in the February 12, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

New York & Co., which specializes in wear-to-work clothes, weekend attire and flattering pant fits, is delving into the lucrative day-to-dinner, cocktail and evening categories.

“This could be significant for us,” said Greg Scott, chief executive officer of New York & Co. “We like to think big. We’ll see how the collection can grow.” Bridesmaid dresses are just one of the opportunities, Scott said.

Eva by Eva Mendes will consist of a large dress component and accessories. “We don’t address day-to-evening and real cocktail looks today,” Scott said. “There will be pants and jeans because that’s what our brand is known for. Eva is excited to pursue that also.”

Mendes will be involved in the design process. She will approve all styles before they go into production and “wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said in a telephone interview.

“We want her influence in the collection,” Scott said. “She has amazing red carpet style and also has a very unique style off the red carpet. She has a real sense of self, which will help us in terms of the design aesthetic. When we look at her, she really is confident.”

On the red carpet, Mendes has worn designers such as Christian Dior Couture, Lanvin, Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein Collection, Roland Mouret, Gucci, Prada and Peter Som, among others. She also has appeared in ads for Calvin Klein underwear and fragrances and Pantene, and she designs dinnerwear. “I love anything that winks to yesteryear,” said Mendes. “You have to find what works for you. Quite a few times I’ve worn turbanlike accessories. In this day and age where everybody has a stylist, I appreciate the kind of woman who steps out of the box. I love feeling like an individual. I want to share all these little tips with women.

“I have a ton of ideas, but it’s a bit early to discuss them,” she added. “[The project] is taking up all my time, but in the best way possible. Everything I see is a possible design. My mind is consumed by it. I’m fortunate enough to travel to so many exotic places. I could find inspiration in a gate in Istanbul for a plate or a blouse.”

Mendes has already participated in a few creative meetings. “The other day, I went to the office with half my closet,” she said. “Part of the fun is coming up with the designs and looking through my closet. There are a lot of prints and lots of color. Black can be very chic and very New York,” but Mendes realized that her wardrobe is comprised mostly of color and prints.

One of the factors in launching the subbrand was the realization that New York & Co.’s customers are shopping for dressier looks elsewhere. “There’s a huge business in day to dinner,” Scott said. “We have none of that business in our store. Our competition has a big business.

“We have some big aspirations for this brand,” Scott said. “If we look at the white space, it could be significant for us. We hope [Eva] attracts new customers. This is our first big collaboration. It’s a real turning point for us. It’s going to galvanize our company.”

New York & Co. had net sales of $956.5 million in fiscal 2011.

Eva by Eva Mendes will be delivered four times a year and merchandised in shops-in-shop in New York & Co. stores. The subbrand will be priced about 10 to 15 percent higher for special fabrics. “I grew up in a very lower middle class household,’ Mendes said. “For me it’s about getting that bargain. I’m not necessarily wearing designer clothes when I’m not on the red carpet.”

“When we asked our customers to name the celebrity they aspired to be, [Eva’s] name came up again and again,” Scott said. “Based on that, we went out and pursued her. It was a very long courtship.”

Mendes said it took 18 months to consummate the relationship. “I love when things take time to develop,” she said. “It wasn’t some kind of rash decision.”

“Our customer is not really sexy,” said Scott. “She’s confident. We don’t use the word ‘sexy.’ Eva uses the word ‘sexy’ in a confident way. Now we can use the word ‘sexy’. We believe in empowering women.

“Eva will be doing personal appearances and engaging with our customers,” Scott said. “She’d love to go on the blog to talk to the customer about how to put it together and how to wear it.”

New York & Co. will leverage “everything that’s going on in her life,” said Scott, alluding to beau Ryan Gosling and Mendes’ humanitarian work. “She’s really down to earth and speaks to our customer.”