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NEW YORK — Backed by a big corporate parent and inspired by the sensual tones and textures of his native Cuba, men’s wear designer Eddie Rodriguez is branching out into women’s wear, home products and retailing.

This story first appeared in the November 24, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Rodriguez will open his first store carrying what he called a “complete lifestyle collection at a Banana Republic price point” in the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas in February. The merchandise, bearing the Tabasco-colored Eddie Rodriguez label, will be set amid evocative Old World and Moorish trappings, such as “confessional” mahogany wood screens, tin drop ceilings with carve outs and colors that appear washed out by sunlight. Exteriors will have stucco facades with Cuban tiling, large hand-carved wooden door handles, and wide windows for views deep into the store.

Additional Eddie Rodriguez shops will open from February to May in the Boca Town Center in Boca Raton, Fla.; Beverly Center in Los Angeles; Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego; Dadeland Mall in Miami, and Barton Creek Mall in Austin, Tex. Stores will be between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet in size. “We are looking at 150 ‘A’ points of sale and we like to think we can be in at least those. That would include mall and street locations nationally,” Rodriguez said.

Wholesaling under the Eddie Rodriguez label in the past proved tough to make money, he added. “I would spend a year designing and developing a collection and then walk into a department store and say, ‘What happened to it?’’’

The Eddie Rodriguez label is owned by The Men’s Wearhouse, the $1.3 billion men’s wear chain. The company acquired the designer’s Wilke-Rodriguez trademark a year ago and brought him on board as creative director. “I’ve been given total freedom in the creative process,” Rodriguez said.

His women’s collection is relaxed, sexy and emphasizes bright colors, shorter lengths, tropical weights, cotton and silk chiffons, sheer treatments and stretch, including peak label jackets in wool polyurethane, ultra-fine pima cotton T-shirts with thin, feminine necklines, and ultra-soft washed denims. There are no basics, 10 groups are being created for a steady flow to the stores, and much of the collection, comprised of tailored clothing, sportswear, outerwear, furnishings, accessories and footwear, gets displayed on the home furnishings, such as distressed console tables, which are for sale. Other home products are leather stools, chaise lounge sofas, and scented candles. Rodriguez has partnered with Atmosphere, a furniture retailer and wholesaler, to create his home products.

The store environment was created in tandem with Robin Kramer, who has worked with many top designers over the years to create retail spaces. Rodriguez said, “The concept transports you to an exotic place, like Rio or Morocco. It’s not place specific. Everything in the store is custom designed from the ceilings to the cash wrap to the flooring. I really wasn’t interested in a cookie-cutter store with white walls and chrome fixtures.”

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