French designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac, whose signature line is known for its bright colors and sharply tailored jackets, is out to build his U.S. business with a new diffusion collection, Ko & Co.

De Castelbajac recalled in a recent interview in Paris that in the Eighties, while his clothes were colorful, he felt surrounded by people wearing black.

“Now that there’s a reawakening of life and color, I believe it’s the right moment for me,” he said. “I’ve always had faithful customers in the U.S., but I’ve wanted to expand that.”

The fabrics in the new line are inspired by everyday household items. De Castelbajac uses toweling, French terry, waffle cotton and canvas. The fabrics are predominantly white cotton or undyed beige cotton, accented by primary color piping, buttons and pockets. Some styles are made in a beige cotton “curtain lace.” Silhouettes include a boxy oversized jacket, short skirts, a tunic dress and a tank top. Jackets wholesale from $150 to $225; skirts are $55 to $65; dresses are $75 to $85; trousers are $58 to $65, and T-shirts are $35.

A line of coordinating accessories includes boots, shoes, bags and socks.

Represented in the U.S. by Eleanor Rankin, with a New York showroom at 712 Fifth Ave. at West 56th Street, the line is targeted to specialty stores. Rankin said she’s planning to take the line to the Fashion Coterie trade show this February, and then on the road for some trunk shows. She said she’s hoping to have wholesale volume of $750,000 to $1 million with the apparel and accessories in the first year.


When Annette Breindel, president of Annett B.’s showroom in New York, wanted a line of suit separates to wholesale for less than $100, she didn’t wait for it to come to her; she went out and made it happen.

Breindel approached Elizabeth Allison, president of Ragtag Inc., a pattern-making and consulting firm here, about making her own line of sportswear.

“The time was just right,” said Allison, who said she is designing the line and having it manufactured in New York. “Because I’ve done so much consulting and product development, we have very cordial relationships with factories here.” The first group, slated to be shipped for Feb. 28 delivery, uses a rayon and wool Bedford cord. The colors are wheat, marine blue, celadon, ivory and black. Styles include an Empire waist single-button long jacket, a single-breasted jacket with back self-belt, a short double-breasted jacket with angled hem and a long Nehru-style jacket. Coordinating bottoms include a 16-inch wrap culotte, a romper-style bottom and two tailored pants styles. All styles are available in all colors. There is also a small group of coordinating pieces in a polyester triacetate georgette, including a tank top, a box-pleated skirt, and short flippy skirt.

Jackets are $93 to $107 and bottoms range from $38 to $61, Allison said. For the first shipment, there are 20 styles in the line and Allison said she hopes to see it grow to about 25 per group. She said she hopes to ship six to eight times a year.

Breindel, whose showroom also represents Anna Sui, Beth Schaeffer and Elizabeth Wayman, among others, said the new line is targeted to specialty and some smaller department stores.