TYLER’S TAKE TWO

Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones

LOS ANGELES — “I’m having such a blast doing this, it’s giving me back a couple years on my age,” says Richard Tyler about his newest venture, the secondary line he’s calling simply “Tyler.”
Since late January, when he decided to pursue Tyler the brand, Tyler the man has been looking forward to the possibilities of finally doing an in-house line that mostly retails for under $300 — a tenth of what pieces in his signature collection and custom lines go for. The new collection, which will be shown on Friday during Fashion Week here, features lots of denim along with chunky sweaters, leather jackets, jersey dresses and georgette tops.
But it’s more than the novelty of a new project that’s given the 50-something designer the enthusiasm to contemplate $100 jeans and international distribution. He’s already tried his hand at designing larger, more widely distributed brands, as he did in the Nineties with Anne Klein and Byblos. Italian production for his ready-to-wear Richard Tyler Collection didn’t pan out, either.
But that’s ancient history, and he’s learned a lot since opening his business — which teeters at the $15 million mark — here 12 years ago. “If we do this correctly, and we will, this could be what takes us to the next level,” Tyler said on Monday as he prepared for the show from his expansive studio in Monterey Park, a suburb just outside Los Angeles where most of his couture-skilled Chinese- and Hong Kong-born staff reside. “This is the only product we’ve done so far where we could go global.”
In fact, the sales staff is now fielding calls from Japanese and European buyers interested in seeing the new line either at the boutique here in the next two weeks, or at month’s end at Tyler’s studio in New York.
Yes, he’s aware the launch comes late in the buying calendar. But neither he nor his sales staff appear to be particularly concerned. Seats are being filled by interested buyers from department and specialty stores, they point out. If only $1 million is booked for fall (the first of three deliveries is set for July 30), Tyler calmly says that will be fine. Unveiling the line in Los Angeles, the city the Aussie expat and his wife and business partner, Lisa Trafficante, have insisted on making their home, was a top priority.
“The clothes have an L.A. look and feel to them,” says Tyler. “I love the way the girls here put themselves together. Its got this rock ‘n’ roll ease. They don’t look all the same. They have their own individual style. It’s still grown-up. It’s sophisticated. But it’s got an edge to it.”
Erica Davies — the 30-year-old, Welsh-born co-designer on Tyler — as well as other young members of the team, have clearly infused the collection of chic, easy separates with a Los Angeles-meets-London sensibility.
Tyler is so into the new line that he’s given to such teasing outbursts as “forget couture. I’m over it.” Of course, he’s not. In fact, he’s using many of the hand finishes, seam details and precise cuts that are rare at these price points.
But he insists he can get away with this kind of quality simply by using less-expensive fabrics. “It’s not couture, of course,” he notes, “but the quality is still there. I’m very particular.” Production is being handled among local contractors with whom Tyler has worked before. “So I’m very confident in the product. And the great thing about controlling production is we can turn it around in a hurry.”
While the lower price points can certainly help the company’s own financial health in a post-Sept. 11 economy, the designer talks of it being “the right thing to do” in terms of the new priorities he believes consumers share. “Sure, it’s going to make a huge difference to our business. But I’d like to believe we’re feeling other things are more important now than spending $800 on a shirt,” he says.
“We’re just feeling that way in our own lives. I’m really focusing on just having fun. I’m having the best time of my life. I think it’s the rebirth of Richard Tyler.”

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