NEW YORK — Perry Ellis wants to give women’s sportswear another go.

The iconic brand, which recently launched a collection of better-priced dresses for spring with dress manufacturer AV2000, will reenter women’s sportswear come spring 2003 with a line of better-priced separates under the Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis Portfolio brands.

The new lines will be produced under license by sportswear manufacturer Public Clothing Co. and will mark the fifth license Perry Ellis has in women’s — after dresses, fragrances, belts and scarves. It also means the first major push into women’s following the company’s termination of its sportswear license with the Goodman Group, a division of Kellwood Co., last April.

“Since we have some good successes launching new categories in men’s, we thought it was time to give the women’s wear a shot,” said Allan Zwerner, president of licensing for Perry Ellis International. “Back in the early Eighties, Perry Ellis was a strong women’s designer line, and when he passed away, eventually it was not as successful.”

The women’s licensing revenue helps fuel PEI’s worldwide retail sales of over $1.5 billion.

Zwerner said he’s been in talks with Public Clothing since last summer, discussing how the line should be positioned and the concept. Zwerner said the collection will be strong on knitwear and embody a “dress-casual” look.

“It will be a key-item concept that relates but not focuses on the collection,” he said. “The idea is to have flow and newness on a constant basis.”

For eight-year-old Public Clothing, the deal represents not only its first license but its first entry into better sportswear.

“It’s something we have looked forward to for some time,” said Dan Shamdasani, president and chief executive officer of the firm, whose background is in moderately priced, casual private label sportswear. “We think it will be a great success given the name and image of the brand. There’s a real need for related separates in the dress-casual area in department stores.”

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