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Men'sWeek issue 01/10/2013

JA Apparel Corp. is aiming to elevate its Joseph Abboud brand into the designer arena with the launch of a new Red Label collection of sportswear, tailored clothing and accessories. The line, manufactured in partnership with Italy’s Cipriani SpA, made its debut at Pitti Uomo in Florence this week and will be spotlighted in a runway show there on Thursday at the Stazione Leopolda.

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

Prices for Red Label product are more than double the core Joseph Abboud Blue Label offerings that are carried at Nordstrom and other specialty retailers. Red Label suits will retail for $1,200 to $2,500, unconstructed blazers for $950 to $1,900, woven shirts for $225 to $595, knit shirts for $180 to $375, cloth outerwear for $750 to $1,500 and leather outerwear for $1,500 to $5,000.

By comparison, Blue Label suits retail for $695 to $1,000, woven shirts for $98 to $120 and outerwear for $300 to $600.

The push into higher price points follows Joseph Abboud’s return to the runways of New York Fashion Week last year after a seven-year absence. The initiative showcased the designs of creative director Bernardo Rojo and signaled the brand’s intention to compete in the luxury arena.

“We think it’s the natural evolution of the brand under Bernardo’s leadership and the success we’ve had with two runway shows in New York,” said Tony Sapienza, chief executive officer of JA Apparel Corp.

The Red Label collection will launch exclusively at Harrods in London this spring and then expand to doors in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia and the Middle East in the fall. The new branding, labels and hangtags incorporate an oxblood-red color scheme to set it apart from Joseph Abboud Blue Label product.

“We want to reinsert ourselves as a design leader in America,” said Kenton Selvey, president of Joseph Abboud Brand Group, the division that oversees design, marketing and licensing at JA Apparel. “We have lots of room to grow at the upper end. We’re looking to break into higher-end retailers and get back into key specialty doors that help define a brand among opinion leaders.”

Sportswear is the key focus of the collection, with about 200 stockkeeping units, including each style’s various color and fabric options.

“There’s a bit of an edge but it’s men’s wear that is very wearable. It’s not a lot of bells and whistles, there’s a purity of line to the collection,” said Rojo of his latest designs. “I’m mixing materials like bonded Neoprene with leather and a cashmere car coat lined in technical fabrics.”

Selvey asserted Red Label is expected to become a “significant” part of the overall Joseph Abboud business. The company’s Blue Label tailored clothing business posted a 35 percent sales increase in 2012, according to Sapienza.

Red label will sit atop a Joseph Abboud brand pyramid that encompasses Blue Label, a White Label line that is sold primarily at Men’s Wearhouse, the Joe Joseph Abboud brand sold at J.C. Penney and the Joseph Abboud Boys business licensed to Peerless.

“This manufacturing collaboration brings together an American design house and Italian manufacturing expertise,” said Roberto Cipriani, ceo of Cipriani, which also produces the Ermanno Scervino brand under license.

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