VOYAGE WILL LINK TO WEB WITH BESTSELECTIONS.COM

Byline: James Fallon, London / Valerie Seckler, New York

NEW YORK — Voyage, the fashion retailer that once required a membership card, is opening up to a virtually limitless audience — cybershoppers — through a deal to sell via BestSelections.com.
By May 31, Voyage will be selling about 30 percent of its assortment on the six-month-old Web site, at bestselections.com, that focuses on design-driven items, priced from luxury to mass, and has doubled its roster of e-commerce partners, like Voyage, to 300 from 150 since last November.
“We will start by selling mostly the Voyage sportswear, men’s and women’s, because it is easier to show online than eveningwear,” said Roberto Devorik, president of the international unit of BestSelections.com, from his offices in the company’s New York headquarters.
Among that merchandise slated to bow at BestSelections is the new Voyage Jeans line, Devorik noted, as well as long patchwork skirts, embroidered tops, silk and cotton twinsets, handbags with Sixties-inspired detailing like mirrors and fringe, sandals in the spirit of Dr. Scholl’s and beach shoes.
Prices on the Voyage collection will range from roughly $200 to $300 for the embroidered tops to $600 for the jeans, and up to $2,000 for the patchwork skirts. Footwear will run from $350 to $400, according to Devorik.
“We’ve just shot the collection; we’re very excited that we’ll have it up in about two weeks,” Devorik said, noting that when Voyage goes live at the site, BestSelections will turn to its next new project: adding eveningwear from another new e-commerce partner, Patricia Lester. “We expect to have the [Lester] line on the site by June 30.”
Rocky Mazzilli, son of Voyage’s founders, designers and owners Tiziano and Louise Mazzilli, said: “We think it will be a big success. We’ve been approached by a lot of e-commerce sites, but BestSelections seemed different. They work like we do and match our sensibility.”
BestSelections links with purveyors of unusual items, in an eclectic group of categories, from apparel and jewelry, to pet products, spa and beauty goods, and arts and antiques. The company’s “May favorites,” featured on the BestSelections home page on Tuesday, included: Christopher Fischer funnel-neck sleeveless tops, priced at $255; a Soo San antique Chinese lacquered clothes chest, at $1,265; a silver business-card holder from Felissimo, $35; and a Chic Doggie by Corey sterling silver dog necklace, with engraved heart pendant, $145.
Visitors can begin to shop BestSelections, from the home page, in a number of ways: clicking on a merchandise category, a city site, a directory of the site’s e-commerce partners or a range of timely items like the May favorites.
Mazzilli declined to reveal Voyage’s sales targets for the BestSelections site.
Voyage has sales of about $30 million to $40 million a year through wholesaling and a handful of stores in the U.S. and U.K., including its two freestanding stores in London and Bergdorf Goodman.
The jeans line, which was launched this season, features a variety of pants and tops with different embroideries and prints.
Mazzilli agreed that the line should be easier to sell on the Net than Voyage’s main collection, where every garment is different.
The jeans line also is aimed at a younger customer who might be more willing to shop online, he added.
“We’re not very good with computers; we’re creative people,” Mazzilli stated. “We looked at all the different sites, and found BestSelections very user-friendly and easy to access. We believe most people don’t really know how to use a computer that well, so that’s important. We decided to go with BestSelections after they approached us.”
Voyage was founded in 1990, and became a hot label about five years ago for its bohemian chic looks in silk, linen, cotton and wool.
About three years ago the retailer began locking its front door and started a membership card in order to stop what it claimed was constant copying by other designers. The card generated heaps of negative publicity, with London newspapers calling Voyage “the snootiest clothes shop in town,” but it remained a favorite of supermodels and such actresses as Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Julia Roberts and Goldie Hawn.
Voyage abandoned the card last year, saying times had changed.
But even Rocky Mazzilli admitted Voyage’s attitude really hasn’t changed that much and the more democratic Internet is not likely to have any major impact on it.
“One of the other reasons we went with BestSelections was because they would take our image,” he said. “All the others wanted us to adapt to them. We’re building a brand, as is BestSelections, and we can do it together. We liked the idea that they wanted only certain companies on their site and not others. We liked that they’re as snobbish as we are.”