NEW YORK — Bessie Afnaim Corral and Oliver Corral have broken out on their own.
This story first appeared in the February 15, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designers, who got married this past summer, spent almost a decade working with Donna Karan at Urban Zen and launched their own men’s and women’s line, Arjé, this week. The luxury collection, which is named after an Ancient Greek term used to describe the essence of everything, will operate on a see-now-buy-now schedule.
See-now-buy-now has turned into a buzzword brands use in press releases to appear in touch — it’s yet to be determined if this approach works — but the Corrals are committing themselves to the concept. It also happens to be one long preached by their former boss at Urban Zen, Donna Karan.
They’ve shaved the development and production timetable down to four months — it’s typically 12 to 18 months — by eliminating the sampling process. For their Chapter 1 collection, the spring one that was released this week, the designers started gathering materials at the end of October, and designing, developing and producing in November. Bessie Afnaim Corral said they’re using what they’ve learned at Urban Zen to determine how many pieces to produce.
“We’ve been studying merchandising for a long time,” said Oliver Corral, who did say the first few seasons will be a learning curve for them and buyers. “The number of pieces we produce is based on budget, floor space and sales opportunities. Everything we design has a purpose.”
The next collection, Chapter 2, the summer line, will be available at the end of May and, following that, they will produce Chapter 3, a fall collection that will be available in mid-September. Bessie Afnaim Corral said Chapter 4, a holiday collection that will be in stores mid-November, will be a surprise that could translate to a line of cashmere sweaters or a capsule collaboration with another brand.
The largest assortments will be Chapter 1 and Chapter 3 and the goal is to develop on the items they’ve created at the start of the cycle instead of designing completely new ideas — i.e. developing their customer’s wardrobe over the year. To further streamline the process, Bessie Afnaim Corral and Oliver Corral spend 50 percent of their time in Italy, where most of the collection is produced, working directly with artisans in the factory.
The collection is similar to the Urban Zen aesthetic, but the Corrals said that as opposed to designing a wardrobe for Karan, which was their primary task at the brand, they have created a his-and-her lifestyle brand for themselves.
They’ve moved away from black, a signature for Karan, and focused on easy-to-wear separates including trenchcoats, suede jackets, knits, blazers and shirts made from pre-washed fabrics along with Loro Piana cashmere and silk. Certain pieces are embroidered with an evil eye, which Bessie Afnaim Corral said isn’t branding but something for the customer to discover, and the silhouettes cater to a broad range of customers. The line is priced from $170 for a men’s shirt to $2,800 for a suede and silk women’s trenchcoat.
For now, they are targeting specialty boutiques including A’maree’s, in Newport Beach, Calif., Susan in San Francisco, and Hirshleifers in Manhasset, N.Y.
Next month, they will introduce their own e-commerce site. Each collection will be available to purchase online for six months.