STRENESSE SUBSIDIARY MAPS U.S. GROWTH PLAN
Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — In the few years that the German label Strenesse has advanced its image as one of the hottest fashion brands in Europe, its development in the U.S. has taken much quieter steps.
But that’s been changing quickly since the company set up a U.S. subsidiary in July, headed by Deb Maxwell, who was senior vice president of women’s at GFT’s former Armani Le Collezioni division. Maxwell, who is president and chief executive officer of Strenesse USA, moved the collection into its first dedicated showroom in New York this month in a space being designed by Christian Liaigre at 50 West 57th Street.
After touring some 675 specialty stores across the U.S., Maxwell is looking to position the company’s designer label — Strenesse Gabriele Strehle — in 65 to 70 accounts with the fall collection, up from about 30 existing retailers.
“We’re off to a great start,” Maxwell said. “But we want to be very precise about the distribution of the product. We need to make sure that first there is a level of passion for the product from both the customer and retailers.”
Strenesse’s scope in Europe extends beyond the Strenesse Gabriele Strehle label to include Strenesse Blue, a more casual lifestyle collection, Strenesse Jeans and full accessories collections developed with accessories designer Ernesto Esposito. Strenesse recently opened its seventh company-owned store in Europe, located in Munich. The shop was designed by Liaigre, who is also the architect behind the home of Gerd Strehle, ceo of Strenesse and Gabriele’s husband, on Lake Tegernsee in Bavaria.
About 45 percent of the company’s estimated $100 million in sales comes from exports, although only a small portion of that is based in America. With the development of the U.S. subsidiary — the company’s second since opening a showroom for European press and distribution in Milan in 1995, the company expects to increase its exposure in the States from an estimated 5 percent to 15 percent.
Strenesse’s fall collection is the first to be shown out of the new showroom and features Strehle’s signature elements, such as unlined, double-face wool flannel separates updated with black and brown patchwork styles, as well as matching monochromatic matte jersey and wool crepe sportswear. The collection also includes technical outerwear, such as storm-system coats and nylon quilted blazers, and skirts in black and cognac.
Strenesse, which was formed as an outerwear company in 1949, continues to have a strong coat offering interlaced with its sportswear, including featherweight angora and cashmere blend peacoats, a white boiled wool double-breasted style with a scoop neckline and a black shearling style with an oversized cuff detail in contrasting fur.
Strenesse is also introducing several items geared toward a luxury-minded consumer in the fall collection, differentiated from the core line by white linings. The luxury group includes suit separates in gloss-finished high-twist gabardine, trousers, and a blazer, corset and skirt set sewn with tambour seams.
Strenesse’s corporate plans for the year also include the introduction of its first fragrance in July with Cosmopolitan, while the company is also researching the possibility of a men’s wear collection for 2002, Maxwell said.