WILLIWEAR BEGINS LICENSING PUSH

Byline: Alice Welsh

NEW YORK — World Class Licensing is expanding the WilliWear women’s collection — which has been primarily a specialty store business — to department stores, beginning this fall.
It has also begun signing up licensees. Three have been signed so far: Randy Industries will produce a collection of women’s athletic and body wear, Nu Image will produce a collection of unisex caps with embroidered versions of the WilliWear logos and graphics, and Leg Scene Ltd. will manufacture a complete line of women’s casual socks.
Bloomingdale’s will open 11 in-store WilliWear shops, beginning with fall deliveries in August, according to Frank Doroff, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s ready-to-wear.
“We are very excited about launching the line. We liked the product and feel no one else is doing a casual collection that looks like it,” said Doroff.
Designer Willi Smith, who died in 1987, was known for his loose, easy and casual sportswear under the WilliWear label.
The rights to both the Willi Smith and WilliWear names were bought after Smith’s death by World Wide Licensing, which is owned by the Pressman family that owns Barneys New York.
Another firm, World Class Licensing, entered into a joint venture with World Wide Licensing in October 1994, becoming the exclusive worldwide licensor for all categories of WilliWear and Willi Smith merchandise.
Nash International, an affiliate of World Class, has produced the WilliWear women’s line under license since 1993. Both Nash International and World Class are under the holding company International Annex Corp.
“We’ve been producing the WilliWear women’s line for two years, so I don’t have to take a survey about the name recognition. I know this name means something,” said Sam Harvey, co-chairman and director of design at International Annex Corp.
In 1994, WilliWear did $15 million to $16 million in wholesale volume, up from $6 million in 1993, said Harvey.
The women’s sportswear collection consists of casual lifestyle pieces with an outdoor attitude. They include jeans, T-shirts, corduroy blazers, fishing vests, windbreakers, cotton shirts and a lot of outerwear jackets. Price points range from $10 for a long-sleeve T-shirt to $60 for a polyurethane-coated cotton rain slicker. Basic jeans average $20, cotton shirts are $20 and a canvas flannel-lined outerwear coat is $48.
“I think it offers a different kind of look in the contemporary market,” said Julie Yarvin, Bloomingdale’s buyer for the casual contemporary area.
“Most of contemporary is trendy, and this collection is very classic, a good value and can cater to any age group. It’s very outdoorsy, and I think it’s what people are looking for and how they are dressing today.
“The WilliWear name still has a strong image with the consumer. I think there are good memories associated with the name and that’s a plus,” she added.
“To date we have been a specialty store business,” said Harvey. “Our arrangement with Bloomingdale’s will be our first time in a major department store.”
World Class hired advertising and marketing veteran George Lois to develop a logo and marketing concept for the licensing push. The new logo makes the two “L’s” of Willi into extended racing stripes, while the lettering is the same as the original WilliWear logo.