VON FURSTENBERG SETS NEXT SPRING FOR DEBUT OF SPORTSWEAR COLLECTION

Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Diane Von Furstenberg plans to launch a sportswear collection next spring after having experimented with a few shirts, skirts and pants in spring and fall collections this year.
“You will recognize that it’s Diane Von Furstenberg,” she said during a visit to the Ultimo store here Friday for a trunk show and cocktail party. “It will always flatter the silhouette and have fabrics that move with you.”
Bearing the same label, the sportswear line will incorporate some of the historical prints on silk jersey from Von Furstenberg’s heyday in the Seventies, as well as 8 oz. stretch denim, coated cottons, jacquards and stretch fabrics. At a minimum, itwill include two jackets, a lightweight trenchcoat, four styles of pants, three T-shirts, knitwear and skirts, said Astrid Martheleur, Von Furstenberg’s vice president of sales.
“It will be a full array of pants, shirting and jackets that will give our customer the opportunity to look to us not just for dresses,” Martheleur noted. “We will do printed T-shirts and embroidered T-shirts, and it will be interesting to see the way the prints translate into shirtings and pants. It won’t be a solid khaki pant — we are not about that. We will offer great novelty pants and shirts keeping the Diane Von Furstenberg vision.”
Martheleur said it was too early to project volume since she didn’t know the number of sku’s in the line. Prices also have not been set, but the firm’s dresses retail for $220 to $300. Launched two years ago, the company did $21 million in 1999 and is on track to more than double that this year.
The dress line is sold in 285 doors in the U.S. plus 35 international accounts. Von Furstenberg has concentrated on selling to independent specialty stores as well as limited distribution to Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
During the appearance here, Ultimo sold 80 units, took orders for 29 more pieces and rang up about 100 copies of her autobiography, “Diane: A Signature Life.”
Next spring Von Furstenberg also plans three styles of shoes in various fabrics from Parisian high-end shoe designer Christian Louboutin. A close friend and frequent travel companion of Von Furstenberg, Louboutin created a fabric bow mule for Von Furstenberg this spring that sold all 1,200 units at a retail price of $185.
While Von Furstenberg wants to extend her name to other products, she has no intention of licensing anything after having been unhappy with some goods sold in the past under her label.
“I have cleaned up my act, and my name is clean,” she said. “For so many years, I lost control of my name, so now I really want to make sure I give it my signature. I don’t want to do any licensing. It took me too long to get my name back, and I want to control my destiny.”
Von Furstenberg was wearing a light new fragrance she is developing, but she said she has no idea when it will come to market because she is being cautious about a potential partner.
“I don’t want to get married to the wrong company,” she said. “I want to make sure I do it right. I want to get involved with the right people.”
Von Furstenberg noted she plans to open a store in about six months in a building she bought adjacent to her headquarters on West 12th Street in New York.
“I want to open stores in London, Miami, Los Angeles and Paris,” she noted.
Meeting with the press and customers at Ultimo, Von Furstenberg was effervescent about her return to the fashion industry.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more enthusiastic or excited than I am now,” she said. “Everything is possible. It is maybe the most exciting moment because of the potential. At the time we started, nobody would have believed that my customer today is the girl under 30. It is a total compliment. I identify with the young women of today so much more than women in the Eighties with their black suits. The woman today knows she can wear a little dress.”