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Kenneth Nolan, design director, Maggy London, says diversification is the secret to a successful dress line.
“Many dress lines have gone out of business because they’re afraid to try something new,” he said. “We’re always going into new areas, depending on the specific needs of the customer.”
Maggy London has gone through many changes since its beginnings 17 years ago as a dress line specializing in two-piece silk printed jacquard looks.
“The trend now is soft, relaxed, easy dressing, with multi-end uses,” said Nolan. New fabrics, such as Tencel, yarn-dyed rayon and variations on silk, exemplify the look.
Consumers also want more mileage from a dress, in styles that go from the office to dinner to weddings, said Nolan. Simple silhouettes in silk crepe with minimal detail are staples for this customer. For spring, color is key, with a full range of pastels, brights and mid-tone palettes. Prices range from $59 to $98.
Nolan said he reads trends and interprets them, giving a nod to rather than embracing cutting edge looks. He also designs with regions in mind. “In areas of the South, some churches celebrate ‘Fifth Sundays,’ with women wearing white dresses,” he said. “I have to keep things like that in mind, and make sure I have white dresses.”
He also tries to offer appropriate coverage, such as sleeves, for occasion dressing. “I may think sleeveless, sexy dresses are great, but I have to offer commercial pieces. After all, business is what it’s all about.”
Maggy London Dresses has annual sales of $40 million.
“We’re a mid-price line, but we don’t talk price — we talk value,” said Stephen Lang, president of Mon Cheri, a Trenton, N.J., bridal manufacturer. “We tell retailers that anybody who tries to compete just on price will probably lose their pants.”
Lang, with designer and ceo Amy Yen, emphasizes quality features in the line, which ranges from $239 to $359 at wholesale. Italian satin and reembroidered Alenion lace makes up 75 percent of the line. Every gown has edges finished with horsehair and many have built-in crinolines.
Each new collection has around 30 new styles, with 125 active styles at any given time. Yen, a former manufacturer and retailer from Taiwan, stresses that no two look alike. Two-thirds of the line is in “rum pink” a dusty pink color the company launched two years ago. All manufacturing is done off-shore, primarily in Asia.
Lang, a former manager with Alfred Angelo and Bridal Originals, runs a lean operation with high-volume production to keep prices down. The company, launched in 1991, now has annual sales of $20 million.
Lang attributes a “generally unhealthy bridal industry” in recent years to a decline in the number of brides and a glut of manufacturers and retailers.
“My sympathies are with retailers, who have the hardest job of all,” he said. “They’re caught between brides, who think every retailer is Monty Hall of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ and manufacturers, who have their own demands.”
During fashion shows, Lang talks to retailers, giving merchandising and accessories tips, and explaining why every dress is unique and how to sell it.
“We relate to retailers, because we’re selling, too, and it’s an emotional product,” he said. “We try to sell a total package, service and value, to retailers. They should do the same rather than just trying to match price with a guy down the street.
Luxurious fabrics and elegant silhouettes are key at Gottex swimwear.
In its 1997 cruise collection, the company relies on exotic destinations — the South Sea Islands, the Far East and Spain — as the inspiration for looks such as the North Stars, swimsuits featuring navy and white dots engineered to create a slimming effect, and Illusions, layers of sexy sheer stripes done for a graphic effect.
The company, which is based in Israel and has a U.S. division in New York, is already strong in the Southeast, especially Florida, and getting stronger. Its annual sales are more than $60 million.
“That whole quadrant [of the U.S.] is fabulous for us,” said Sharon Klenk, senior vice president and national sales manager, noting that Gottex is a resort collection. “And when we get out of Florida and into Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas, we’re cultivating that area more.”
Specialty stores are a primary focus.
“Our price points and image and collection do cater to better stores,” said Klenk. “Specialty stores look to us for the more unique pieces.” Among the firm’s accounts are major better customers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
The line tries to help customers by offering promotional tools like counter cards, cooperative advertising, advertising materials and trunk shows. Gottex also provides postcards for retailers to mail to customers for special events.
Gottex was founded in 1956 by Leah and Armin Gottlieb, who had emigrated to Israel in 1949 after World War II. The name Gottex comes from a blend of the words Gottlieb and textiles. Miriam Gottlieb Ruzow, their daughter, now operates a U.S. division, which she started in 1966.
Since then, the company has expanded into leggings, bodysuits, sunglasses, sun care products, children’s swimwear, men’s swimwear (Gottex Men), sheets and towels, unitards and sarongs.
Retail price points range from $85 to $200 for swimsuits and from $100 to $500 for accessories, depending on the garment and details, according to Klenk.
The Viewpoint by Gottex Collection was established 12 years ago with a more moderate price point than Gottex. The 1997 collection includes looks such as Animal Instinct, a zebra-like print; Great Gatsby, swimsuits in navy and white crochet stripes in simple silhouettes with matching cardigans and long knit coverups, and Glamour Girl, a group of suits with gold toggles, gleaming skirts and double crossbacks.