NEW YORK – Few self-respecting designers today would be content with selling a single product category when the currency of success is an entire lifestyle brand, and Gilles Mendel is no exception.

The fifth-generation furrier moved here 20 years ago from Paris to establish J. Mendel in the U.S. Four years ago he ventured into ready-to-wear, which now accounts for 28 percent of sales, up from 5 percent two years ago.

Handbags and shoes are on tap for spring, and jewelry is in the offing.

“Soon you’re going to see home furnishings,” he said. “You’re going to see the whole world of J. Mendel. The dream I had was to be a full fledged luxury brand not just a furrier.”

The company, which will do $30 million in sales this year, is now expanding its retail base. A 1,300-square-foot boutique, will bow July 31 at 919 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, is projected to do $5 million in sales in its first year. Mendel is looking for space in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He also wants to open stores in London and Milan, and has his eye on Japan.

For complete coverage, see tomorrow’s issue of WWD.

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