Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Sui Anna Sui finally has found a home — and with it, a distinct identity.
For two years, it shuffled between contemporary and young designer departments and had difficulty standing apart from Anna Sui’s designer line, which is priced 20 percent higher. But now, Sui Anna Sui, which is licensed to Gilmar SpA, Cattolica, Italy, has been refocused for spring as a true bridge line.
“It’s taken us a few seasons to focus on what it is,” said Anna Sui. “It clearly needed to be separated from the Anna Sui Collection. The fact that [Sui Anna Sui] was more accessible made it smart to move it into the bridge area.”
For the first few seasons, both lines were often hanging together.
“In some places, it confused the customer,” Sui said.
Now, the Sui Anna Sui line is poised for broader distribution.
“The intent was always to take the roots of Anna’s fashion and find a vehicle to generate broader volume,” said Rod Kosann, president of Anna Sui Corp., which licensed Gilmar in 1995 to produce and market Sui.
Kosann was interviewed last month along with Paolo Wolfram, vice president and managing director of Gilmar USA, which handles the North American operations of all Gilmar brands, at Gilmar’s Fifth Avenue offices here. Wolfram joined Gilmar at the end of June. Previously, he had been with Viacom doing international projects. Before that, he was vice president of Prel, the overseas buying arm of Wal-Mart.
Together, the executives mapped out their strategy for expanding Sui Anna Sui, including the development of in-store shops, broader distribution, more versatile styles and a distinctive marketing and ad campaign.
Sui Anna Sui generates $10 million in wholesale volume worldwide, but Wolfram expects the line to do $30 million in sales within the next year or so.
“We see the potential of doing $10 million in the U.S. alone in the next two to three seasons,” said Wolfram. Another $20 million would be done in Europe and in Asia — $10 million in each — in the same period.
“We see a great opportunity. There’s been a sea of change in the bridge market. There’s an opportunity for the spirit Anna’s been known for, with pieces that have more versatility and appeal,” said Kosann.
Describing the distinction between the two lines, both designed by Sui, the designer said, “With Anna Sui, I try to keep it mostly on the edge. With Sui, I want it to have the edge but be commercial and easier to wear.”
For example, Anna Sui Collection might include a fishnet top, while the Sui Anna Sui line would have a version that would not be as sheer, she explained. Or the Anna Sui Collection would carry the cheerleader skirt in orange and Sui Anna Sui would have it in black.
The line is competitively priced for the bridge area. Jackets, for example, wholesale from $160 to $240; trousers are $80 to $110; dresses are $80 to $200; knits are $65 to $200, and skirts are $50 to $85.
Unlike other bridge lines in department stores, Sui Anna Sui isn’t especially career-oriented. It includes many day looks that can also be worn at night. Among the styles are doubleknit viscose and nylon jackets, narrow pants, nylon shimmery coats, lace-trimmed pieces, giraffe-print cotton jackets, devore jersey dresses, perforated skirts, cross-back camisoles, sweaters and slipdresses.
Wolfram pointed out that Gilmar, whose strength is in knitwear, has added more soft pieces to the line to make it more seasonless and versatile.
Sui explained that the bridge collection is jacket-based, and is rounded out by knitwear, pants, skirts and pieces, as well as accessories. There are between 158 and 200 pieces in each collection. Unlike monthly deliveries of the Anna Sui Collection, the Sui Anna Sui line has only two deliveries — fall/winter and spring/summer.
One key advantage of this licensing deal is Sui Anna Sui has access to all of Gilmar’s directly owned Italian facilities.
“It’s really ideal,” said Sui. “They’re state-of-the-art. It’s such a different way of working for me. There’s such a big staff there. Since the facilities are on the premises, if I have an embroidery idea, I can see it by the afternoon.”
Sui Anna Sui is carried in 60 doors. Among the stores that have the fall line are Henri Bendel, Macy’s West and the Los Angeles specialty stores Traffic and Fred Segal.
Sui’s top line is carried in such stores as Bergdorf Goodman, Bendel’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. It is generally housed in the designer, young designer or high end of contemporary areas, depending on the store’s structure.
Sui officials said they’re developing in-store shops within department stores to house the Sui Anna Sui line.
“Part of clarifying the line is to come in with a stronger statement in terms of the environment,” said Wolfram.
To enhance the brand name, Sui by Anna Sui began an ad campaign this fall, photographed by Steven Meisel, that is running in Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar, British Marie Claire, French Vogue and the Italian and British Vogue. Worldwide, it will spend $2 million in advertising this fall and next spring.
The Anna Sui business worldwide, including licensed products, does more than $20 million wholesale, said Kosann. That volume includes the designer line and the licensed footwear, jeans and bridge collections.
“Licensing is definitely one of the legs of our strategy,” said Kosann, noting that a new fragrance license has been signed with Wella.

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