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NEW YORK — When women look to go the casual route, some are torn between wearing what they really want to wear (sweatsuits) and what they think they should wear (jeans). Ronny Kobo is designing Torn, her casual contemporary collection, with these women in mind.

Torn had a soft launch for spring and was picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue, Intermix and Fred Segal and Lisa Kline in Los Angeles; merchandise just hit the floor last week. This fall, Kobo will roll out a larger collection of sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts and tanks that Kobo said can be worn anywhere from the supermarket to a swanky lounge.

“Something clean and cool was missing from the market,” said Kobo, who before the launch was at the helm of her eponymous handbag collection. “I think the consumer needed sexy, cool-fitting sweatpants that weren’t overembellished or too junior. Torn has a bit of a tomboy feel with a designer fit.”

The collection comprises sexy, snug-in-all-the-right-places hoodies; off-the-shoulder sweatshirts; extra-long tanks and T-shirts, and four sweatpant styles, ranging from lean and tapered to a cropped genie-inspired style. Kobo said she wears Torn every day and has no problem pairing the clothes with flip-flops or Jimmy Choos. And since Kobo is a fur lover, she’ll begin to incorporate fur into future collections. Wholesale prices range from $16 for a tank to a $90 for a wool, flannel plaid coat.

The name of the brand is derived from the slightly distressed feel of the merchandise. Kobo spent a month in China, where Torn is manufactured, trying to find the most durable, yet comfortable, fabric. At first, Kobo wanted to create the collection exclusively in cotton, but now she adds a bit of Lycra or elastic to create movement.

“Cotton is a good fabric,” Kobo said. “It’s something that doesn’t give when you wash it, and you can wear with heels or flats or layered under other pieces from other seasons.”

Kobo sought the help of her friend Lauren Forst, a former buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Intermix, to take the reins on the business side.

“I found, when I was buying, that the basics were not sexy. They had a misses’ fit,” Forst said, adding that the sexier fits were “embellished and overdone.”

This story first appeared in the March 2, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Forst, who said the brand is partners with a distributor in the U.K., expects a global wholesale volume of $1.5 million in the brand’s first year.

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