Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — By Design LLC, the U.S. arm of a British knitwear firm, is in an expansive mode.
The U.S. division, which started in February 1995 making embroidered sweaters and then expanded into head-to-toe knit dressing, had a first-year wholesale volume of more than $45 million. Company officials estimate that volume will exceed $100 million for the second year, which ends April 30, and are projecting sales of more than $250 million for the year after that.
The company markets three lines: Debbie Morgan, a misses’ line that is targeted at popular-price chains; By Design, a junior line, and Carolyn Taylor for By Design, which markets misses’ fashions to department stores.
About 75 percent of the business is in misses’, with 10 percent in junior and the remainder in plus-size fashions. About 60 percent of the business is private label for such accounts as J.C. Penney Co.; Sears, Roebuck, and Dillard’s. About 75 percent of the business is in sweaters, with the remainder in knits.
Officials say they are interested in rapidly expanding into other divisions, especially wovens that would work with its knits. For example, the company plans to merchandise its knit tops with rayon jackets and skirts. For fall, it is shipping 40 woven styles and is aiming to develop a separate wovens unit for fall ’98 that it says could eventually constitute 10 percent of sales.
Also planned is a children’s line, which is expected to debut in 1998, and a men’s wear line, which will be introduced for fall selling in 1997. Company officials are also considering developing soft shops for the Carolyn Taylor for By Design label with their key store accounts, some of which include May Co. and Federated Department Stores.
“We want to create a total package,” said Jay Lee Choi, chief executive officer and president of the U.S. arm, whose parent firm is Design PLC, a sales and distribution company based in London and Manchester. Debbie Morgan Ltd., its affiliate in Hong Kong, is its production arm.
To gear up for growth, the company in July moved into a 7,800-square-foot showroom at 1411 Broadway. The previous showroom was 4,700 square feet.
Choi, who had been a merchandiser at SIM International, a knitwear firm, was courted by Danny Passi, chairman of the parent company, to start the U.S. division. Choi started the business in November 1994 with Sam Greenberg, director of sales, who also came from SIM International, and another unnamed partner. The U.S. division now has 50 employees, including Dale Jones, its chief financial officer, who came on board in June from Gitano, and Mitchell Herman, senior merchandiser and vice president of sales.
By Design has a 13-person design team, with Hyun Kim heading the sweater area and Angela Chi directing the knit tops and dresses division.
“We have the right product and the right people,” said Choi, citing the company’s specialty of yarn development and technology. For example, the company’s designs feature chenille, rayon chenille, acrylics with rayon finishes, thermal knit and high-twist acrylic yarns.
“We are able to take advantage of our European affiliates, which feed us information about trends,” Choi said. “I can observe which styles are doing well in Europe and adapt to the American market. We have information and confirmation.”
Price points for Carolyn Taylor for By Design range from $6.50 to $15.
Some of the spring looks include cable-ribbed crewneck sweaters in cotton, sweaters in high-twist acrylic, polyester and cotton knit sweaters with embroidered details and floral print crewneck dresses in polyester and cotton.