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NEW YORK — In the year since Denise Miller has been president of Rafaella, a division of Perry Ellis International Inc., the company has updated its better sportswear line, further developed the replenishment program and is now launching denim and activewear collections.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The activewear collection — called Rafaella Sport — will be introduced at retail this spring, while the denim will hit stores in the fourth quarter of this year.

Rafaella Sport, a first for the classic sportswear brand, will include drawstring bottoms, T-shirts, jackets, hoodies and anoraks. Wholesale prices range from $20 to $35. The collection will be manufactured in China and Vietnam. Rafaella Sport will launch in 280 doors for spring with the goal to expand distribution to 950 doors over time. It will be targeted to Rafaella’s key accounts, such as Lord & Taylor, Belk and Bon-Ton.

“Rafaella Sport will be what the Rafaella customer wears on the weekend, vacation or whenever she wants to dress down but still look put together,” said Miller.

Core fabrics are denim, in a variety of washes and lengths; French terry; poplin; cotton Modal, and Spa Stretch, which is a soft polyester-spandex that travels well, she said. The color palette for Rafaella Sport will complement the main line as it’s a lifestyle extension of the brand. The palette will be anchored with core neutrals of black and navy, and for spring, a soft khaki and white, accented with stripes and florals, will be added.

In the jeans category, five-pocket denim bodies in white, dark indigo, medium wash and black are being offered both in its Curvy and Classic fits. They are available in full and capri lengths. There is also a classic five-pocket denim skirt and jacket that’s part of the mix in all colors and washes. Jeans will wholesale from $23 to $35.

The company plans to ship a small capsule of denim in the fourth quarter under the main Rafaella label to get the denim on the retail floor during January and February, when the category historically does well, said Miller. The plan is to fully launch denim with the Rafaella Sport label in the spring. First-year projections weren’t disclosed.

Known for the fit of its pants (classic, curvy and slimming) and its emphasis on dressing the modern woman, Rafaella has made improvements to its better-price sportswear line as well.

“Our business is very good. We worked very hard in turning the ship around. We had walked away from our core customer,” said Miller.

The line had gone off in a trendy direction, which wasn’t appropriate for the Rafaella customer. “For this woman, fit is important to her, and approachable fashion is important to her,” said Miller.

Rafaella is the largest women’s brand within the Perry Ellis International portfolio, and the second-biggest brand overall after Perry Ellis. Rafaella represents more than 10 percent of the total business of PEI, which has just under $1 billion in revenues. Rafaella is distributed in more than 2,100 doors across the U.S.

For spring, Rafaella will also update its brand identity. It worked with an outside creative firm to develop a new brand mark, packaging and trims to communicate the Rafaella fit options. The weight of the hangtag is more substantial and is attached to the garment with a waxed cotton locking looper with its new “R” icon. It also designed a new joker tag that is affixed to the back of the waistband. This tag explains the benefits of the fit. It includes photography that shows the fit in front, side and back views.

In other news, Rafaella added styles this fall to its core replenishment program in misses’, petite and plus sizes. In addition to its new pant silhouettes, it added a pencil skirt, jacket and a camisole in black and white.

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