Byline: Ruth Benoit / With contributions from Katherine Weisman

PARIS — Karl Lagerfeld, one of fashion’s busiest designers —for other labels — is getting serious about returning to a ready-to-wear line of his own. In a strategic move to build a signature business, Lagerfeld will design and launch a new rtw line — dubbed Lagerfeld — for spring 2001 under license to an undisclosed Italian company.


Sources indicated that the maker is the same company that produces Fendi rtw, but the company’s exact name could not be learned. A spokeswoman for Lagerfeld, who declined to name the Italian partner, would not comment further, nor would Fendi officials. Lagerfeld designs apparel for Fendi, in addition to heading the creative empire at Chanel.


The new rtw is considered a secondary line. The first season will include approximately 100 pieces with wholesale prices ranging from about $250 to $1,200, the Lagerfeld spokeswoman explained.


This secondary collection is targeted to women 25 to 40 years old. The prices are lower than the high-end Lagerfeld Gallery collection, which was launched for spring 1999 and is sold exclusively at the Lagerfeld Gallery on the Rue de Lille, here. The Lagerfeld line will be presented in July to buyers at showroom appointments in Milan, the spokeswoman said.


Lagerfeld has had difficulties with his ready-to-wear lines since the mid-Nineties. In 1995, Karl Lagerfeld S.A. and the German maker Steilmann Gruppe chose not to renew their licensing agreement for the KL by Karl Lagerfeld diffusion line after eight years of collaboration. The last season for KL was spring 1996.


In 1995, Lagerfeld signed a five-year agreement with Italy’s Selene SpA for a signature collection but there were problems with production and delivery. The agreement was discontinued in 1997, the year Lagerfeld bought his name and company back from the former Vendome group for a symbolic franc.


The news of the secondary line follows the launch of a new Lagerfeld handbag, which was presented to buyers during fashion week here. The line is being marketed for fall distribution. Both developments point to Karl Lagerfeld’s desire to have a larger business and make a stronger statement under his own name in the fashion industry, the spokeswoman explained.