SANDRA GARRATT: BACK TO BUSINESS

Byline: H.H.

DALLAS — Designer Sandra Garratt is back with large-size and children’s lines she’s created for a Canadian manufacturer.
Garratt, who gained fame in the Eighties as the creator of Multiples and Units sportswear, has suffered a series of business setbacks since then. Efforts to launch an organic cotton T-shirt line and women’s sportswear collections collapsed when her backers withdrew. Now Garratt is licensing her name and design skills to Belle International, a maker of children’s, misses’ and special-size apparel in Montreal that does almost $20 million annually.
She’s also teamed with the Dallas Design Initiative to open a cooperative store in mid-March in her Deep Ellum studio to sell the clothes of four or five young designers plus Garratt’s own designs. (See story opposite.)
For Belle, Garratt is styling three collections: moderately priced large-size sportswear called Somebody by Sandra Garratt; Rock-N-Roll Kids, a fashion line inspired by rock musicians for 6X to preteen girls, and Woogy, a newborn-to-6X unisex collection themed after Belle’s proprietary cartoon character who promotes reading.
The large sizes and Rock-N-Roll Kids are being shown to stores for fall retailing, but Woogy won’t debut until a children’s book featuring the alien space visitor is published.
Belle is in discussions with publishers for the book, which was penned by Mary Shrode Hollingsworth, author of the first Barney book, and illustrated by Mary Grace Eubanks, who has done a lot of work for Barney and Sesame Street.
“Most of the emphasis is on the large sizes because that offers the most opportunity right now,” said Myron Welick, president and founder of Belle. “There is a need in the market for something like Sandra is doing — clothes that make women feel pretty and sexy. Also, it’s a growing part of the marketplace.”
Welick thinks he’ll do $5 million in first-year sales of Somebody, which he sees as an updated version of the Multiples coordinated stretch knitwear.
Somebody features eight cotton and Lycra spandex pieces and four coordinated tailored silhouettes. Sized 14 to 28, the line wholesales from $17 to $60.
The knit basics include a long tunic dress, two tops, pants, skirt, unitard, bodysuit and leggings. They’ll be done in a plain and waffle knit in basic and seasonal colors, starting with black, off white, indigo and charcoal heather gray.
The woven pieces are stitched from a rayon and polyester black and cream check or a black and charcoal banker stripe. Pieces offered include a jacket, vest, straight skirt and pants.
Comfort was a main factor, Welick noted, since that contributed greatly to the original success of Multiples.
“We tried to have fabrics with a very nice hand next to your skin,” Garratt noted.
She believes the line fills a need in the moderate market.
“At top price points, there is some nice merchandise available, like at Saks, but in general, I don’t see these women being treated as pretty or sexy,” Garratt pointed out. “Most of what’s available is pretty shabby. The quality, fabrics and colors are bad, and department stores usually shove it in the basement.”
Sears Canada is considering buying the collection for fall, said John Freeman, national business manager for large size and petites for Sears Canada retail and catalog in Montreal. After seeing a bigger version of the line in January, he asked Garratt to winnow it down to a core of functional, easy-fitting styles.
“If she comes back with what I envision, I could see it in 25 stores,” Freeman said. “We’re excited that everybody knows her history, and that was the reason for us to see what the Nineties version of the concept was. What we’re looking for is a niche in casual fabrics.”

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