NEW YORK — For errant designers getting back in the game, the high-low approach is fast becoming the way to go.
Pamela Dennis, who plans to relaunch her high-priced signature eveningwear as part of fashion week in September, said Monday that she is also planning to introduce a collection of inexpensive daywear for the home-shopping channel QVC this summer. Called Pamela Dennis Private Client Group, the new line will be positioned as a step up from the network’s usual fashion assortment of novelty knits and fake furs. It will bow with the designer on air Aug. 7, offering looks such as raw edges, outside seam details, satin trenches and black leather pants priced for the masses.
“It’s pretty fashion-forward for what’s available out there,” said Dennis, who will join QVC’s cast of designers which includes Dennis Basso, Stan Herman, Victor Costa, Joan Rivers, Louis Dell’Olio and Bob Mackie. “When they said they’re using double-face wool as a base fabric, I was shocked.”
At the same time, Dennis is working on the design of her high-end line, which is called Pamela Dennis Couture and targets designer specialty stores. The QVC collection will reach 87 million homes.
Going over a rack of the first samples from each line, Dennis pointed out how a black double-face cashmere car coat that will cost in the “four figures” in her signature line will become a cashmere-blend style for QVC, or that a double-face wool crepe fabric from Giuseppe Botto & Figli used in her designer-priced line has been made more affordable by using a less expensive double-face wool for a little black dress, the sort Audrey Hepburn made famous.
Like a spate of other Seventh Avenue veterans who are hitting the comeback trail this year, Dennis said she has learned the value of embracing both the high and low ends of fashion from the mistakes she has made. Similarly, Isaac Mizrahi is opening his new custom-made collection at Bergdorf Goodman with a runway show in June that will incorporate looks from his line for Target Stores, and former Anne Klein designer Charles Nolan is launching his signature line for fall with items priced from $35 to $8,000.
Darlene Daggett, president of U.S. commerce at QVC, said the company has made an effort to incorporate more fashion-conscious collections into its mix as a complement to those with broader appeal, citing recent additions of jewelry from Angela Cummings, Robert Lee Morris and Barry Cord.
“Looking at this product from Pamela Dennis, it is clearly the next step up,” Daggett said. “But frankly, this has been an evolutionary process for us. The nice part about Pamela is that she is going to be leading this group of progressive designers for QVC.”
Daggett believes Dennis’ name is still familiar to QVC customers, who will recognize the designer from her many TV appearances and for dressing celebrities on Hollywood red carpets prior to 2001, when her first business folded as part of the collapse of the attempted conglomerate Pegasus Apparel Group. The name Private Client Group is a reference to Dennis’ reputation for working directly with customers at trunk shows and matching their body types with appropriate looks — part of the pitch behind this collection, as well.
Many items will likely be priced above the typical QVC bar — defined somewhere between a $47 Quacker Factory cardigan with panda bears crawling up the front and Mackie’s dragonfly print silk kimono at $79 — so Dennis will have to use some telegenic skills to move her own merchandise, selling its qualities as investment clothing for the working woman. Prices are expected to start around $55 to $65 for a blouse, $60 for a wool crepe skirt, $120 for a wool crepe jacket, $102 for a leather skirt and up to roughly $215 for a leather jacket.
“Pamela Dennis is an extraordinary talent in her own right,” Daggett said. “Some people will say, ‘Gee, will the QVC customer know Pamela?’ I think they will. We have a customer who loves to shop, who sees it as a pleasure activity. She’s shopping the major department stores, reading the fashion magazines and she knows what’s going on.”
The exposure on QVC, which had sales in 2002 of almost $4.4 billion, and royalty income should also help Dennis with the establishment of her high-end business, which is currently operating out of a small Garment District studio here. Prior to closing the line in 2001, Dennis’ signature eveningwear had sales of about $10 million.
She is now looking for long-term studio space south of 14th Street for that business, with the aim of moving in by Aug. 1. Apart from designing for private clients, Dennis has kept a low profile since her bad breakup with Pegasus. During that time, she said on Monday, “I fought.”
“All I did was talk to lawyers,” said Dennis, who recently negotiated a truce with the Connecticut-based capital advisement company that financed the Pegasus venture in 2000, with similar terms to those of designers Miguel Adrover and Daryl Kerrigan. “In retrospect, I should have had a baby, but instead I worried and reflected about how to come back and the right way to do it.”