MONTREAL — French knitwear brand Rodier is returning to the North American market through a licensing agreement with Algo Group Inc. here, which plans to introduce a Rodier spring collection at the Fashion Coterie in September.

Rodier has been absent from North America since 2004, after it was acquired by French knitwear manufacturer Folia for $7.3 million. At the time, Rodier had 37 company-owned and franchised stores worldwide, including nine in the U.S. and Canada, and was formerly owned by Paris-based Vev SA, a textile conglomerate that filed for the equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2004.

Rodier operates about 30 corporate-owned and franchised stores in France and Belgium, and has estimated annual sales of $45 million to $50 million.

“It’s an exciting project,” said Jean Talafré, vice president of Algo Sportswear. “The Rodier name has such a positive image and brand recognition built from a wonderful history. With the recent return to knits’ relevance in fashion … it seems timely to bring the label back.”

Founded in 1857 by Auguste Rodier, the company, which invented the “kasha” line of cashmeres and mohairs blended with man-made fibers, was one of the largest knitwear companies in the world during the Seventies and Eighties before pulling out of North America. The Rodier label grew from a textile manufacturer and supplier to Coco Chanel to a ready-to-wear collection that includes accessories.

“Rodier pulled out of North America because the new owners felt too far away from a market they didn’t know, but now are back under the new agreement with Algo,” explained Talafré.

The spring 2007 collection will comprise 200 to 225 pieces and mix traditional Rodier styles with conventional knit blends updated with new weaves to reflect today’s sheer lace looks. Wovens include silk trousers, linen jackets and pinstripe suitings. The line also features fitted jackets with pants and shorts for a more casual look, teamed with polo sweaters in several colors and blends. About 60 percent of the collection is knitwear, which Talafré classified as “chic, basic and not too fashion-forward but very commercial.”

Rodier’s core market is 40-plus business professionals, sizes 4 to 18. Retail prices will be $80 to $150 for knit tops and $500 to $800 for suits.

This story first appeared in the July 28, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The collection will be available in better department and specialty stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The firm is targeting first-year sales of about $5 million, said Talafré.

Algo Group is one of Canada’s largest manufacturers and importers of women’s wear, men’s sportswear and outerwear, children’s wear and fashion fabrics. It imports and distributes international brands including Algo, Alfred Sung, Ted Lapidus, Robin International, Lori Ann, LA Bridal, Bugle Boy, Green Jeans and London Blues.

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