NEW YORK — After a decadelong absence, John Bartlett is setting his sights on women’s wear again.
This story first appeared in the January 15, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer, who is unveiling his fall men’s wear collection at Hudson & Broad in TriBeCa on Feb. 10, will include a capsule collection of women’s looks in the presentation.
The women’s pieces will cull inspiration from his men’s wear, with looks adapted to fit the women’s silhouettes.
“I have had so many women come into my store, and I have met so many women out on the road who really love the look and quality of men’s wear, and everything that men’s wear offers that isn’t offered in women’s wear,” Bartlett explained. “A lot of women will come in and try on my men’s clothes. They’re always too big for them and not fit for their bodies, but they love the expression. These are women that are not looking for ruffles or lace or jeggings. It’s a different kind of approach to clothing.”
Bartlett added that with his new extension, he would like to bring the quality and tailoring of men’s wear to the women’s arena. The designer is no stranger to women’s wear. As part of a partnership with Genny Holding SpA in the Nineties, he created women’s wear using Genny’s factories, tailors and other resources.
“When I had done women’s wear before, I started out with this idea of ‘butch femme,’ with a real combination and a play on gender,” Bartlett recalled. “Over the seasons, I found myself getting pushed to do more chiffon and ruffles and beading, and things that really were not me.” Bartlett’s relationship with Genny ended in 2000, after the Italian manufacturer was bought by Prada Group.
“At that point, I had to decide, with my limited finances, to pick one or the other, and I picked men’s wear because I had studied that originally in school, and now I am feeling confident in what I am about and who my customer is, both male and female.
“I am very clear who this woman is for the first time in my career,” he added.
For his inspiration, Bartlett cited “very strong women,” from Katharine Hepburn to the Russian constructivist movement. For fall in particular, Bartlett pointed to constructivist artists Lyubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova.
“They created fashion and textiles, and I love that they were revolutionaries and I love that strong voice,” Bartlett said.
The clothes will be made in the same factories that make Bartlett’s men’s wear, including Martin Greenfield in Brooklyn. The designer declined to disclose wholesale price points for the line, but suggested retail prices range from $185 to $225 for dress shirts; $245 to $300 for pants and skirts; $795 to $995 for jackets, and $1,195 to $1,295 for outerwear. Bartlett plans to sell the collection in his store at 143 Seventh Avenue South, as well as wholesale it to upscale specialty and department stores. As for projections, Bartlett didn’t disclose a dollar amount but said they were “very humble.” “It’s more about establishing the collection, the fit and the customer and then to see what happens,” he said. “I’d like to offer it to be a stand-alone business and a stand-alone identity. My fantasy is to develop more retail and have women’s stores alongside the men’s store.”