NEW YORK — In its latest move beyond core cosmetics, Avon Products will put its considerable direct marketing muscle behind a new line of Diane Von Furstenberg-designed casual sportswear.
Avon signed a joint licensing agreement with the designer this week for a budget-to-moderate line called Diane Von Furstenberg The Color Authority. The line will be introduced in late August.
The venture will be positioned as a direct market alternative for shoppers who buy at department stores as well as mass merchants. For 108 years, Avon’s direct marketing brochures have focused on cosmetics and fragrance.
Avon already has an estimated $130 million apparel business, but that consists largely of intimate apparel. The company also produces Elizabeth Taylor licensed costume jewelry and a line of private label jewelry.
Avon’s expansion in apparel is the second instance in a week of a beauty company tapping the sportswear market for growth. As reported, Revlon recently licensed its name to The Jack Mulqueen Co. for a line of sportswear called Colors By Revlon (page one, Jan. 23).
Andrea Jung, president of Avon’s product marketing group, estimates that casualwear will account for 50 percent of the company’s apparel sales in 1995.
“We understand the potential casualwear has, especially today when combined with the power of distribution,” said Jung. “We believe it is the single biggest opportunity this year.”
Styles and prices haven’t been nailed down yet, but Von Furstenberg described the line as “modern, relaxed.”
“The idea is to create a small wardrobe of great items that are very adaptable,” said Von Furstenberg at Avon’s corporate offices Tuesday. “People now want to buy more from the home and use their time in different ways.”
“I was intrigued with this venture from the beginning,” said Von Furstenberg, who’s been steadily raising her business profile the last few years.
She stepped up her exposure in November 1992, when she began appearing on QVC to sell Silk Assets, an exclusive line of printed and solid separates that has generated sales of over $20 million since its inception. An exclusive line of relaxed knitwear by Von Furstenberg called Casual Chic was introduced on QVC last fall.
Last year, Von Furstenberg bought back the rights to Tatiana, a fragrance named after her daughter, which she originated in the late Seventies. She said that a select number of Victoria’s Secret stores nationwide began previewing the fragrance this week. This evening, Von Furstenberg will be on the air at 7:45 p.m. to sell the Tatiana fragrance — and her daughter is expected to be at her side.
Von Furstenberg’s casualwear for Avon will be sold in the door-to-door seller’s core brochure, which is mailed out to some 440,000 sales representatives in the U.S. twice a month. Each distribution reaches 50 million consumers.
The line also will be featured in Avon Style, another brochure mailed out five times a year, which currently features primarily intimate apparel and is cross-promoted with the core brochure. Jung noted that a significant amount of space in the brochure will be devoted to the new line.
Jung further noted, “We felt we needed a designer who understands women. She’s a woman, and at the end of the day, she understands what a woman wants and what her lifestyle needs are. Diane also has a unique understanding of Avon.”
“It’s the dialogue. The consumer has trusted me for years,” said Von Furstenberg. “I’ve always thought that word of mouth is more important than advertising, and that is the Avon business.”
“I think the opportunity is formidable,” continued Von Furstenberg. “As big as this company is, I think it’s been dormant. But the potential is enormous, especially with people like Andrea.”
Von Furstenberg said fabrics for the fall line will include knits, some silks and key items such as a white cotton piqué shirt. Colors will be black, white and brights.
Barry Herstein, senior director of new business development and direct marketing at Avon, said a successful selling tool has been for sales reps to preview apparel items that will be shown in upcoming brochures. Sales reps will be encouraged to actually wear the items on sales calls.
“It’s great, because they enjoy wearing it, and in turn, the customer sees the different ways the styles can be worn,” Herstein said.
He noted that there will continue to be casualwear bearing the Avon Style label.
“This is the ultimate challenge,” stated Jung. “But that’s what sets this concept apart. Who is to say you can’t have design at mass prices.”