Byline: Shirliey Fung

NEW YORK — Plus-size women have long complained about being ignored in the marketplace, but new vendors like Rebecca Jones are responding to the increase in demand for large-size apparel choices.
Last December, Jeff Zinn, president of Rebecca Jones, saw the opportunities for growth — according to the latest research by Fairchild’s Strategic Information Services and the NPD American Shoppers Panel, the plus-size category is the fastest-growing segment of the women’s apparel market with $27.4 billion in sales for the year ended June 2000 — and purchased the company from moderate sportswear manufacturer Requirements, which founded the company with Zinn last August.
In March, Zinn is planning to launch the 22-item collection in about 300 department and specialty store doors. Zinn is currently in final discussions with Rich’s, Catherine’s Stores, J.C. Penney, Belk Department Stores, Dillard’s and Federated Department Stores for the rollout.
Zinn, who has had more than 30 years of experience in the plus-size market, with companies such as Lawrence Stevens Fashions, Joyce Apparel and Koret of California, said he plans to grow the collection slowly — to 400 doors by fall.
“We want to make sure that the formulas are correct. We’re going to maintain and watch what hits the floor,” he said. “The retail climate is not a concern, but we will not expand distribution until we feel comfortable.”
Zinn added that he’ll focus on getting his product into the best stores, not on door count. He is aiming for $10 million in sales in the first year.
The line, designed by Lucerne Labidou, will target plus-size women like herself who are looking for fashionable, reasonably priced apparel.
“Whatever’s happening on the runway is what we’ll put in the line. I’m frustrated when I go into stores and the clothes either look bullet-proof or make me look old,” Labidou said, adding that she’ll use fabrics with fluidity and stretch such as rayon and polyester. “A lot of these fabrics have been used for other markets, but not for plus-sizes.”
The collection features border-print skirts and sash pants wholesaling for $14, jackets from $22 to $28 and blouses from $17 to $22.
Labidou, a former junior and contemporary designer at Reina Industries and moderate designer at Smile Fashion, said the spring line will be print-driven and feature bodies such as bell-sleeved cascaded blouses, dusters and sarong skirts. She said black and white will be important, as well as bright colors such as coral, blue and red.
Come fall, Labidou will be using velvets, fake suedes and other novelty fabrics. She said earth tones and rich jewel colors such as brown, brick red, mustard yellow and hunter green will be important for fall.

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