FRENCH LESSONS

Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Going against the subdued post-Sept. 11 tide in American fashion, Paris-based Morgan de Toi is infusing the States with more of its sensual, playful vibe. Beginning with three stores in South Florida, this French exporter of fashion and accessories is set for an aggressive expansion campaign targeted to the Southeast.
The new stores will operate under company-owned licensee MDT Southeast LLC, as opposed to the independently owned and operated franchises in California, Hawaii and Arizona.
“The franchises have the brand’s old fixtures and logos, whereas the Southeast stores will adopt the new design prototype that debuted last year in Paris,” said Lori Tesserot, director of stores and head buyer for MDT.
Averaging 2,500 square feet, stores are clean and bright, with a high tech but whimsical aesthetic. The first location bowed last month at tony Aventura Mall, located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Two more Florida stores are slated to open by yearend, in Agnes B.’s former space on Collins Avenue in South Beach and in the Mall of the Millennium in Orlando.
Tesserot plans to expand the store’s range, from trendy two-piece business suits to more casual outfits geared to Saturday shopping sprees.
Tesserot said the line, with its sexy, body-conscious clothes, is a good match for Florida, where the line should be embraced by twentysomethings in search of a body-conscious, flirtatious look. And in Miami, the town where skin is in at (almost) any age, Morgan de Toi is likely to attract customers a decade — or two — older. Tesserot also is excited to work with the area’s multi-ethnic customer base, which she predicts will embrace the company’s European styling and sizing.
Fit is the key to a purchase, according to Tesserot, who reports a large conversion rate when customers enter the dressing room. As an example, she cites a pink off-the-shoulder sweatshirt with lace sleeves. “It looks so ordinary, but when they put it on, everyone goes nuts,” she said.
Other hot spring items are appliqued denim, peasant tops, mini and asymmetrical skirts, wide-legged pants and ballerina-inspired items and colors. In accessories, colored sunglasses with studded hearts, chokers, hip slung belts and turquoise have been strong sellers. Swimwear and loungewear will be added later this year, and the stores will carry eveningwear during the holidays.
Prices range from $20 for a sleeveless T-shirt with “Morgan” printed across the front to $200 for a beaded denim jacket.
Tesserot travels to Paris every 8 1/2 weeks to select new merchandise created by an in-house team of 30 designers. All fabrics and prints are spun, dyed and woven in-house, too, promoting more exclusivity.
Founded as a lingerie manufacturer in 1947, Morgan de Toi shifted focus to ready-to-wear in the late Sixties. Expansion beyond Europe began in the Nineties, which currently totals more than 500 stores and in-store boutiques, in 53 countries. Tesserot said the brand will gain more North American presence through more MDT-owned and operated locations within the next two years. Some possibilities are Tampa and Boca Raton, Fla., Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and the Carolinas.

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