PARIS — When Derek Lam was asked to design a capsule ready-to-wear collection for Tod’s, one guiding light was a picture of chairman Diego Della Valle’s motor yacht, the Marlin, which was previously owned by president John F. Kennedy.

The handsome, 51-foot boat with its gleaming wood trim exemplifies Tod’s understated, practical and relaxed approach to luxury. To wit: Lam’s chic waxed cotton “yachting” jackets can potentially withstand an ocean drenching — or simply make fashion waves in the lobby of the Ritz Hotel. That’s where Tod’s set up camp for two days to unveil its new apparel venture. The spectacular suite was arranged as if a young couple were honeymooning in Parisian style, the rooms scattered with Diptyque candles, Fauchon nibbles — and, of course, luxury sportswear and Italian leather goods.

Lam said that his mission is to create a vocabulary of iconic pieces that are contemporary and urban, but “we’re still trying to keep a casual atmosphere.” That translates into a leather skirt as easy to pull on as a pair of sweatpants, lean jeans with a subtle flare and frisky polos in cotton piqué or double-faced cashmere jersey. Using Tod’s expertise with leather, there is a sleek blazer and a soft version of the yachting jacket with subtle metal hardware.

Lam said that customers can assemble complete looks and top them off with the ultimate $2,000 trenchcoat in waterproof cotton twill, but added that the clothes were designed like accessories, to be bought on impulse to update a wardrobe. Tod’s plans to launch the line, including a couple of men’s looks, in February at 15 of its 100-plus boutiques, said Claudio Castiglioni, chief executive of Tod’s U.S.A. That includes locations in Beverly Hills, Bal Harbor, Fla., and on Madison Avenue in New York. Retail prices will start at about $425 for a cotton polo shirt.

This story first appeared in the October 6, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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