Byline: Miles Socha

NEW YORK — Seizing on a strong knitwear trend, bridge sportswear firm Thalian Inc. is introducing a knit collection for spring under the Roberta Freymann label. It will be priced in the better to bridge zone.
“To round out the development of the company, we thought the next logical step would be a knitwear division,” said Joan Mendlinger-Levine, co-owner of the $8 million New York-based firm, which also recently introduced the CiZi contemporary line and a petite division.
“We wanted it to be a stand-alone collection, but we also wanted it to work with our tailored separates,” said Mendlinger-Levine of the knit unit.
Thalian, best known for its pants, introduced a limited range of stretch silk knits in the past few years and enjoyed a good response from retailers, Mendlinger-Levine said. As recently as a year ago, the Thalian showroom represented other knitwear labels, including Mary Jane Marcasiano and Carol Horn, which now have their own showrooms.
But Thalian recognized that “it really takes a knitwear specialist,” so it enlisted Freymann, a 27-year-veteran of the industry with strong name recognition and manufacturing connections in Latin America.
For almost 10 years, Freymann operated a better/bridge knitwear company and sold her signature collection to a long list of better stores, including Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York. She closed the business in 1994 to become vice president of Latin America for Laura Ashley, but was let go in 1995 as part of a downsizing.
Freymann now operates her own consulting firm here, Roberta Freymann Enterprises Inc., which has done merchandising and design work for such apparel companies as the underwear firm Duofold. At present, Roberta Freymann for Thalian is the only collection Freymann fully designs. It will be produced in Mexico, Argentina and England, she said.
Thalian is projecting first-year wholesale volume of about $2 million, based on strong reaction to the line from specialty stores and better department stores, Mendlinger-Levine said.
Top sellers include long rayon sweater sets with see-through “cellophane” stripes; sheer rayon over shirts, and gypsy-looking camisole and cardigan sets with floral and velvet trim.
Freymann acknowledged that knitwear is still a tough sell in spring and summer. She said items need to have a strong selling feature — “whimsical and fun, sexy or whatever” — and carry an affordable selling price. Wholesale prices for her knit items will range from about $25 to $100.
“It’s an alternative to power dressing,” Freymann said. “Instead of wearing a jacket to the office, women today might wear a cardigan and a camisole.”

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