CYNTHIA STEFFE STRETCHES OUT

Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — Slowly but surely, Cynthia Steffe is expanding.
The young designer company here has added a secondary line, Cynthia, for fall deliveries; Steffe will show her top-price designer line on the runway during fashion week here for the first time, and the company is looking around SoHo for store space.
Steffe’s growth has been slow by some standards, but it’s been steady. The company’s volume is about $22 million at wholesale each year through its signature and F&R labels. F&R is Steffe’s career-oriented sportswear label that’s priced in the low bridge range.
“The company is 7 1/2 years old, and it’s been consistently profitable for the last five,” said Richard Roberts, Steffe’s business partner and husband. Steffe was one of a group of young designers — among them Jennifer George, Rebecca Moses, Charlotte Neuville and the late Carmelo Pomodoro — who were heralded in the late Eighties as the next generation of fashion. Now, many of those names are no longer on Seventh Avenue.
Now, said Roberts, “it’s time to branch out and be more visible.”
“We’ve reached a point in our development where it’s important to show the clothes the way we felt they should be shown,” said Roberts. Steffe has shown her line during fashion week for the past two years, but never on a runway.
In addition, the new Cynthia label will address a new customer for Steffe, one that’s looking for fashionable clothes that still have value.
“It’s less geared to the career-classic customer and more to a faster lifestyle,” said Steffe in a recent interview in her 550 Seventh Avenue showroom here. “If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be items. Everything can be bought as one piece, but because it’s a collection, it can be put together as an outfit.”
Fabrics in the first season include fake fur and leather, stretch napa satin with a leather look, wool pinstripe, burnout velvet, stretch cotton and Lycra spandex twill, wool pebble crepe and knitwear made from Lurex, Lycra and rayon or chenille yarns.
“A lot of the fabrics are from the mills that we buy our collection fabrics from, but [the mills] have developed less-expensive versions of them,” said Steffe. “The collection is affordable, but it’s also something I’m proud to have my name on.”
Colors include black, brown, bottle green, camel and gray. Silhouettes include narrow coats, shown over slim knee-length skirts or boot-leg pants; classic man-tailored pants and double-breasted jackets, and slim shirtdresses.
“We feel we can have fairly broad distribution on this,” said Roberts, adding that the line should do between $7 million and $10 million wholesale in its first year.
“We have every intention of supporting this with in-store shops and our own sales staff,” he said. “If you want to compete, that’s what you need to do.”
The in-store shop design will reflect Steffe’s showroom, which will soon be redesigned, said the designer. Steffe is also planning to start some advertising for fall.
As for an independent retail venture, Roberts said the company is looking for a lease in SoHo and hopes to have something within a year, but added, “I’d rather wait for the right space than rush into anything.”

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