NEW YORK — Diane Gilman has built a successful career championing the mature woman, building a $150 million denim collection for HSN that has earned her the nickname “The Queen of Jeans.”
And now, the vivacious 70-year-old is jumping into brick-and-mortar with an exclusive collection for Christopher & Banks.
The Diane Gilman Ultralux Denim Collection of jeans and related tops, which is being manufactured by Gilman’s longtime partner, Sunrise Brands, is being introduced for spring in the company’s stores and online. The collaboration will be celebrated with a launch party in New York on Monday night.
“In fashion, women over 40 often feel like an old girl in a young girl’s world,” Gilman told WWD in an interview at the Sunrise Brands offices here. “They’ve seen their body parts go south, east and west, but never north.”
Her DG2 line for HSN addressed their unique needs by offering jeans that are comfortable and fashionable. “When she needs the most help, she gets the least,” Gilman said. “The fashion industry turns its back on her.”
So Gilman created a line targeted to Christopher & Banks’ sweet spot: “the middle-aged Middle American woman.”
The Ultralux collection will consist of 45 pieces in misses and plus sizes. There are different washes and weights in jeans, and silhouettes include boot cut, classic cuts, capris and jeggings.
Tops range from classic T-shirts and button-downs to three-quarter sleeve mandarins and asymmetric hem tops. “You’ll never see a binding top in my line,” she said, noting that most older women acquire belly fat that is often difficult to lose. “So it’s all about understanding what’s not fixable and working with it.”
Prices range from $49.95 to $74.95.
“Christopher & Banks came to us when they heard we wanted to do a retail line,” Gilman said. “And the fit between my line and their customer was in perfect lockstep.”
She said the primary determinant for the collection is that it needed to be comfortable, or “caressing to the body,” she said. “They won’t sacrifice comfort for style.”
Tricia Perket, vice president and divisional general merchandise manager for Christopher & Banks, agrees. “Diane Gilman is a branded collection that further supports the comfort and design needs of our customer. The product is ageless, yet meets the needs of women’s changing bodies as they move through life. Fabric and fit are an integral part of this collection and the product is designed to complement our body shapes and layer effortlessly. Diane is a well-known jean expert and an advocate for looking and feeling great at any age. This philosophy is a great extension and complement to our brand.”
LuAnn Via, president and chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-based retailer, said the Diane Gilman line will be carried in approximately 60 stores and online. She said that while the retailer has had other joint ventures in the past, this is its first celebrity partnership — one she hopes will be ongoing.
“We have collaborated to provide the Diane Gilman collection through 2016 and we anticipate to have a long-term partnership,” Via said.
Gerard Guez, chairman and founder of Sunrise Brands, said Gilman’s “ability to create products with universal appeal, specifically in terms of fit, has contributed to her overall success as a designer. We are excited to see Diane’s designs live in the brick-and-mortar space for the first time.”
Gilman believes her collection will complement Christopher & Banks’ other denim product, which is “more classic — like an old, familiar best friend. Well, here’s your next best friend: it loves you and it holds you in.”