AT DEADLINE

LESOTHO JOINS CLUB: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today is expected to formally give the African nation of Lesotho the green light to ship apparel to the U.S. quota free and duty free. Lesotho is the fifth country to qualify for apparel benefits under a trade measure passed last year by Congress covering sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean Basin. The four other nations are Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Madagascar. Currently, about 20 factories produce apparel products for the U.S. — Lesotho’s largest export market.

NAUTICA GIRLS: Nautica Enterprises has expanded its licensing deal with Apparel Ventures to produce a line of girls’ swimwear. The girls’ line will reflect the flirty styles of Nautica Blue swimwear. Nautica Girls’ swimwear will be previewed at the end of next month in New York and at the Miami Swimwear Show in July, and should be in stores by the end of October.

ANGELA’S SPLIT: Angela Amiri, the West Coast accessories designer who sold her business to Pegasus Apparel Group last year, is expected to announce a split with the conglomerate today. Amiri and Pegasus executives would not comment on the development, but sources said Amiri is working out a deal to buy back her company in a similar way to how eveningwear designer Pamela Dennis has departed from the firm.

ZERO’S NEW DEAL: Zero designer Maria Conejo has signed a production and distribution contract with Onward Kashiyama USA beginning with her fall collection. The deal marks the first time the designer, once partnered with British designer John Richmond, has moved production of the three-year-old line outside of her studio, located behind her NoLIta boutique at 225 Mott Street in New York.

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