NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne wants in on the fancy stuff.

The company has unveiled Liz Claiborne Evening — a collection full of dressy separates and flowing gowns for Aug. 25 delivery — furthering a licensing relationship with the Leslie Fay Co., which will manufacture the line alongside Claiborne’s daytime dress business.

Liz Claiborne, which specializes in better-priced sportswear, had previously produced its dresses in-house, but licensed the business to dress specialist Leslie Fay in 2000.

With similar design characteristics to some bestsellers from the dress line, like a floor-length version of a popular cocktail dress or the beaded detail of a skirt placed on a gown, Liz Claiborne Dresses president Steven Anastos said the evening line was a natural progression.

“Much of the business in dresses has become two-piece,” Anastos said. “And day-to-dinner started becoming very important. We started thinking about this line about a year ago.”

Though the two lines share some design similarities, the line will not be sold with the daytime dresses at retail.

Anastos would not disclose sales projections, but cited plans to increase the dresses business by 20 to 30 percent with the addition of the evening line. He also projected 65 percent of that would be from gowns and 35 percent from dressy separates offered under the label.

Bold solids like red, fuchsia, black and white make up a large portion of the collection, though velvet burnouts, beadwork inspired from antique jewelry, lace and a few brocade items offer diversity. Silk, crepes and velvets are used throughout.

Gown highlights include a three-tier chiffon dress in beige with beaded detail top. A one-shoulder white satin dress with gold bead detail and a black beaded chantilly lace gown are other key items.

Separates looks include a tuxedo pant with attached cummerbund, tuxedo shirt and ankle-length evening jacket. A peasant top paired with a long velvet bias skirt and a fairy-like chiffon skirt with matching satin bustier were some novelty looks.

Greg Ventra, vice president of design and merchandising at Liz Claiborne Dresses, said he took inspiration for the line from vintage clothing and antique beadwork patterns then reinterpreted them with a modern edge.

“At one time there was a huge bridge business in evening, so we felt this better label was an opportunity to capture some of that business,” Ventra said. “By adding a social division, we can address the needs of the Liz lady when she has a black-tie affair or a formal wedding.”

Wholesale prices for the gowns run between $84 and $109, with the average price sitting around $94. Separates wholesale for $59 to $79.

Sleeveless gowns are offered in sizes 4 to 14, while dresses with sleeves run size 6 to 16. In addition, about 40 percent of sleeveless gowns can be ordered with sleeves, Anastos added.


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