CASSIN’S SECOND ACT SHAPES UP

Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — Sherry Cassin is back at the wheel of a design house, having launched a designer fur outerwear and sportswear line under her last name for fall retailing.
Cassin, who left a longtime career as a buyer and executive fashion director of The Doneger Group in 1998 to launch Trilogy Collections, is starting the new line with different backers under the Cassin label.
While the Trilogy launch, which also had designer fur coats, sportswear and accessories components, was a smash at retail with accounts like Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Tracey Ross in Los Angeles, Cassin said she had philosophical differences over the future of the line with her former business partner, Stanley Blum, a principal of Blum & Fink.
In the new venture, Cassin teamed up with Bennett Model, president of Joseph Model Associates, a fur buying office, and a group of independent European investors. The venture is owned by SCBMI, a corporation formed by Cassin and Model.
Meanwhile, the Trilogy line will continue to be produced by Blum & Fink, following the same concept of combining luxury fur elements with sportswear design under the direction of Michael McCollom, creative director.
McCollom was most recently creative director of BET Design Studio, a joint venture of G-III Apparel Group and BET Holdings that dissolved in November.
Cassin’s new collection also has a strong sportswear and accessories influence, but it is primarily focused around outerwear that is designed with a sportswear appeal — lightweight knit fur pullovers and barn jackets and printed or multidyed fur coats.
“We are working with natural materials — fur, leather and skin — and working them into everyday sports clothes,” said Cassin, who is president and creative director. “The Nineties were focused on technical and stretch fabrics, but in the Zeros, there is a flight toward quality and natural fabrics, which is evidenced by the growth of cashmere in the last two years.”
Cassin incorporates lamb, goat, pig and rabbit skins dressed up to look like other animals. A glazed goat shirt jacket looks like camel pony skin, whereas a reversible rabbit coat has an inky python print on its hide.
Anne Dee Goldin, a consultant in the venture, added, “The trend used to be to treat fur as a fabric, but now we are designing fur as another animal. It’s a very interesting evolution.”
While Cassin is currently operating out of shared showroom space at 530 Seventh Avenue, Cassin and Goldin, who is a principal of furrier Goldin-Feldman, plan to move their respective companies to a cooperative showroom at 150 West 30th Street in June.
“We think the outerwear category is poised to become the next big collectible category, following what is happening in handbags,” Cassin said. “You can wear last year’s T-shirt and pants, but you need this year’s coat.”
Cassin is also gearing its sales toward specialty stores and sportswear departments at larger retailers to avoid the promotional climate of outerwear departments. To do that, Cassin has included related accessories, knits and sportswear that can be merchandised together like a sportswear collection, which she said would also encourage multiple sales, as in the case where a kiwi green knit mink coat could be sold with a matching scarf or hat.
She is also offering the line with limited distribution and margin opportunities for retailers, such as lower than keystone wholesale pricing. Outerwear pieces wholesale from $350 for lamb to $2,500 for mink styles, while accessories range from $50 to $1,000.
Under McCollom’s direction, Trilogy is also targeting sales to accounts outside of the traditional fur arena.
His fall collection includes knitted fur styles and leather separates with handbag closures, as well as black beaded pants and cashmere tops. Among the top selling styles are a knitted beaver jacket with a leather belt or a golden sable pullover that is sewn horizontally.
“We wanted to use some unique treatments in fur,” McCollom said. “We are also tying into leather and suede, taking it out of the context of a fur coat and looking at it as luxury sportswear.”
Trilogy’s wholesale prices range from $49 for a fur scarf to $7,900 for a broadtail suit.