NEW YORK — In Japanese, “kazu” means number, and a new rainwear company by the same name hopes that translates into robust sales.
Owned by Lana Winer International, the Kazu Apparel Group aims to be a sportswear label, but is starting with a 14-piece rainwear collection. Instead of traditional trenches and black overcoats, there are patent leather coats, canvas coats with Liberty of London print trims, a safari jacket and other stylish options created by designer Marlene Middlemiss.
“It’s for the customer who likes European clothes, but doesn’t like the prices,” said Herb Frichner, vice president of the Kazu Apparel Group.
During an interview at Kazu’s West 37th Street showroom here, Martin Richter, vice president of LWI, acknowledged the challenge of diving into the outerwear business in the spring, which is typically a five-week selling season.
“In a very tough market and in a very difficult time, those are the times when there’s receptiveness. That’s opposed to good times, when no one is doing anything,” Richter said. “People don’t go into the coat business. It’s a heck of a statement on our behalf in an industry that has been dramatically consolidated.”
Women between the ages of 25 and 50 are the targeted customer base, especially those not searching for more youthful silhouettes. Kazu rainwear will be sold at 25 better specialty stores this spring, such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. Wholesale prices range from $60 to $75.
By owning factories in Hong Kong, Kenya, Guatemala and Macedonia, the company has better control over its production and design, Richter said.
Kazu’s strategy is to offer sportswear-inspired outerwear this spring and then to follow up with sportswear that coordinates with the outerwear this fall. LWI, a $60 million operation, specializes in private label sportswear and sells to the likes of Lands’ End, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Limited.
First-year projected wholesale volume for outerwear is about $1.25 million, Richter said.