CHLOE ‘SEES’ CASUAL COLLECTION PROPELLING IT TO HEFTY VOLUME
Byline: Miles Socha / With contributions from Samantha Conti, Milan
PARIS — Stella McCartney has had no problem attracting a young, hip audience to the house of Chloe. After all, she’s 28, the daughter of rock-and-roll royalty and the designer of some of the most coveted pants and T-shirts for several seasons running.
Now, management at Chloe is ready to get more commercial and is predicting McCartney’s new casual line, See by Chloe, premiering for fall 2001 retailing, will quickly eclipse the volume of her collection line, perhaps doubling that business in four years.
On Tuesday, the Paris-based house disclosed to WWD that it signed a long-term licensing agreement with Neo Res SpA, a Carre, Italy-based manufacturer, to produce and distribute the new collection on a global basis. Neo Res is an affiliate company to Sportswear International, which produces Moschino Jeans, Krizia Jeans and Byblos Blu under license. Other brands manufactured by the firms, whose holding company is known as SINV SpA, include Victor Victoria, Jean Paul Gaultier Jeans and Gabriele Strehle Jeans.
In an interview Tuesday, Chloe president Ralph Toledano said launching a casual, less-expensive Chloe brand was an immediate priority when he joined the firm in May 1999, given McCartney’s flare for designs that are feminine, sexy and, in a phrase, ready to party.
“The Chloe brand today is unique in that it reaches a young and trendy clientele,” he said. “We have to take advantage of this strength.”
Management at Neo Res would agree.
“We had been following Chloe’s progress ever since they hired Stella McCartney and were very impressed with the brand,” said chairman Francesco Dalla Rovere. “We really believe in Chloe, which was why we stepped forward to be the licensee. We plan to sell the new line in Italy, France, England and the U.S. to a select, top clientele, including the big department stores — such as Neiman Marcus — in the U.S. We think this is a great project, and the timing is good. The brand is developing in a great way.”
Toledano said that Chloe shops have welcomed many young customers willing to splurge on McCartney’s gradient-tint sunglasses, low-rise corduroy jeans or slash-front logo T-shirts.
“But today, we are offering perhaps 10 pieces to that clientele at twice the price they can afford,” he said. “Now, we want to build the business.”
Under the See by Chloe brand, the average retail for T-shirts will be about $65, pants around $120, dresses $240 and jackets $265. The debut collection will consist of about 180 pieces and be shown to the trade next February. Toledano stressed that See by Chloe is not a jeans line, with denim representing not more than 20 to 25 percent of the collection.
Despite the popularity of casual items like jeans and T-shirts, which have always been part of the McCartney-designed Chloe range, Toledano estimated that such items account for less than 10 percent of collection sales. To take the business to another level, he said “this is something we could not do ourselves. We need the right pieces. We need the distribution.”
Toledano said the casual line would be targeted at the 18- to 25-year-old crowd, while the main collection is aimed at 28- to 35-year-olds. McCartney and her team at Chloe will oversee design and advertising imagery for the new line. A major ad push is planned to back the launch next fall, but budgets were not disclosed.
“Once we introduce the casual line, the main collection will probably become a little more upmarket and luxurious, especially when we talk about the precollection and not the runway portion,” he added. “It’ll be sexy daytime pieces geared to a slightly older clientele.”
Toledano declined to provide sales projections for the new See by Chloe line. Chloe’s parent, the luxury group Compagnie Richemont Financiere AG, does not break down sales for its various brands, although it has said in the past that Chloe’s sales have doubled since McCartney took over the label from Karl Lagerfeld in 1997. Sales at the house are listed in Richemont’s “other” operations, which totaled $311.7 million last year. Richemont owns such brands as Cartier, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, Alfred Dunhill and the luxury watch brands International Watch Co., A. Lange & Sohne and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Toledano said the See by Chloe collection will initially be offered to its existing wholesale clients. At present, the Chloe brand is sold in about 250 doors worldwide.
The casual line will also be sold in Chloe stores in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo and Osaka as well as any forthcoming units. Toledano noted that the company plans to add two to three locations per year to its retail network, with London, Milan and Los Angeles among immediate priorities.
Toledano said the launch of the casual line is the first of several brand extensions in the works for Chloe. Priorities include handbags, footwear and lingerie.
Chloe’s top collection is produced in-house in French factories. Fragrance is licensed to Elizabeth Arden Cosmetics and eyeglasses to Marcolin.
Meanwhile, for SINV, winning the Chloe casual license adds to the growing portfolio of brands it manufactures. This year, the company acquired a 30 percent stake in Moschino from Aeffe, the Italian clothing manufacturer owned by Massimo and Alberta Ferretti. It also bought Sartorie Riunite, the firm that makes the Victor Victoria label.
Last year, SINV posted sales of $78.3 million, based on current exchange, while 2000 sales are expected to reach $100 million.