SEE BY CHLOE COMES TOGETHER
Byline: Miles Socha
PARIS — See by Chloe has come into view.
And the new 170-piece casual line, bowing for fall-winter 2001 retailing, is drenched with the signatures Stella McCartney has developed since she arrived at the French house in 1997: sexy tailoring, a quirky sense of color and print, and a cheeky, sometimes naughty sense of humor.
“I wanted to keep all the elements of humor and femininity and the sense of fun and confidence,” McCartney told WWD during an exclusive preview of the line. “We’re still coming from the same philosophy of Chloe.”
What else would you expect from a woman whose personal fashion credo is to pair a beautiful, beaded couture-caliber blouse with a pair of what she calls “screwed-up” blue jeans?
Far from one-dimensional, the See by Chloe collection has elements of punk rock, cowgirl chic and references to the Seventies and Eighties.
Jeans, many with antique finishes, ride low on the hips and are the kind that look best worn with heels. Each comes with a silver logo chain that can be threaded through the belt loops or worn as a necklace. Denim represents about 20 percent of the collection.
Blouson jackets and three-quarter-length coats come in denim, canvas, or faux fur, many studded with punk-era badges depicting the Union Jack, retro-style New York logos or slogans such as “Lick me all over.”
Slip dresses in velvet and slinky jersey, cocktail dresses with sequined detail, sporty velour separates and a range of chunky sweaters round out the line.
“We wanted to have a good flavor of a lot of things,” McCartney said. “It should have a taste of a lot of different personalities.” Speaking like the rock ‘n’ roll daughter she is, McCartney added: “I mean, we wanted it to be fun. It shouldn’t be so serious. I never want to lose sight of the need to make wearable clothes.”
Talking to McCartney, one gets the sense that she’s not entirely of the mind to segment her business into discreet price points and target markets.
“I believe everything should be one,” she quipped.
But she allowed that her collection line is priced beyond the reach of the young women who covet such items as her flared pants, gradient-tint sunglasses or slash-front T-shirts.
“There’s definitely a market out there that needs this from this house,” she said. “That’s the problem with the industry. You’re not always able to access everyone.”
Until now, of course. The average retail for See by Chloe T-shirts will be around $65, with pants and jeans ringing in at around $120, dresses at $240 and jackets around $265.
As reported, the collection is being manufactured under license by Neo Res SpA, a Carre, Italy-based company that is affiliated with Sportswear International, maker of Moschino Jeans, Krizia Jeans and Byblos Blu.
Retailers began previewing the collection earlier this month and are in the midst of finalizing their orders.
“We liked it very much, especially the denim pieces,” said Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, who saw the line Wednesday afternoon. “We feel we have customer for it. The silhouettes are very much Chloe. For example, it’s the same Chloe fit in pants, which are extraordinary.”
John Eshaya, Ron Herman/Fred Segal’s vice president of women’s, said he bought the collection in a “big, big way.”
“The line looked really fresh, really wearable,” he said. “She has the same sense of direction and wearability [as Chloe] in the clothes. “She did a great job. She’s so cool, it’s what every girls want.”
He also singled out the fit of the pants, but also praised the tops and printed blouses.
Chloe president Ralph Toledano declined to provide sales projections for the See line, but he reiterated that in three to four years it has the potential to eclipse by double the volume of the collection line, which is currently sold in about 270 doors worldwide.
He noted that existing customers have priority to take on the See collection “because it complements the collection line,” but he acknowledged that the lower price points opens up a new tier of retail distribution.
In large U.S. stores, Toledano said he envisions the See collection positioned next to other European diffusion lines such as D&G, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti and JPG Jeans. He said he’s currently negotiating deals with department stores in the U.K., France and the U.S.
But the new casual line will also be sold in Chloe stores in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Osaka, as well as any other forthcoming units. London is a priority for 2001 and Milan and Los Angeles are also key targets.
A major advertising campaign is planned to coincide with the fall launch, however, the photographer, model and other creative elements have yet to be determined. McCartney and her team at Chloe oversee the design of the collection and advertising imagery.
The See line is the first in a range of brand extensions in the works for Chloe. Toledano said he has assembled a team to introduce an in-house collection of handbags for spring 2001 retailing. The collection should be ready to present to retailers in June.
“There is demand for more Chloe products from our customers,” he said. “The idea is to give them products with the same identity and point of view and sell it to them.”
Of course, given McCartney’s staunch position against using animal products, don’t expect any leather bags.
“Our identity is clearly not about leather,” Toledano said. “And there are lots of other leather houses. I don’t think that’s what people are expecting from us. They’re expecting something different.”
Also on the horizon for the house are a footwear collection, lingerie and a new perfume, he added.