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NEW YORK — Diddy is sending the Sean Combs girl packing.

Sean by Sean Combs, Sean “Diddy” Combs’ highly anticipated contemporary women’s line that launched at retail last holiday, has closed. Market sources said the women’s line shut down last Friday.

“Beginning with the fall 2006 season, we will be suspending the Sean by Sean Combs line,” a spokesman for the brand said. “We are putting it on hiatus in order to concentrate on our new business with G-III for the Sean John women’s line. We are not ruling out the possibility of this brand coming back in due time.”

According to the spokesman, the final spring and pre-fall collections will ship to stores as planned.

Combs first announced his interest in launching a women’s sportswear business in 2000. He delayed the line several times, and in February 2001 told WWD, “I’m taking my time with that and don’t want to overextend myself. Our women’s has been delayed to next year because I want to get it right. But it will be incredibly sexy, strong, approachable and hot.”

Two years later, he teased the idea of a women’s collection by sending eight looks down the runway following his men’s presentation. He promised the line would be out that summer but it was again pushed back. At the time of the Sean by Sean Combs launch last June, he said, “I want women to come into my world. I want to show the diversity of this young, fun, sexy, sophisticated woman. This is the woman we aspire to have. This is the woman the Sean John man wants.”

The collection was prominently displayed in Bloomingdale’s flagship windows here last holiday and was selling at high-end retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. But the line only brought in $3.5 million in wholesale volume during its first six months at retail. While that isn’t bad for a new contemporary collection, it isn’t the high volume that Combs is used to seeing: He does $450 million at retail with Sean John men’s.

“I felt that the Sean John label brought a modern, sexy edge to the contemporary world,” said Robert Burke, founder of Robert Burke Associates, a consulting firm here. Burke picked up the Sean by Sean Combs line when he was working as fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. “Sean’s understanding of the consumer was unique and valid.”

This story first appeared in the March 23, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Just two weeks ago, Sean John signed a licensing agreement with G-III Apparel Group to manufacture and distribute a young contemporary women’s sportswear collection called Sean John, set to launch for spring 2007. Within three years, G-III chief executive officer Morris Goldfarb said the brand has the potential to grow into a $100 million business at wholesale.

Combs had stressed his two women’s brands could easily coexist and would cater to different customers. He said that while Sean John will mirror the men’s wear in distribution and price point, it will be for a young contemporary customer, while Sean by Sean Combs was for a more high-end contemporary shopper. Combs said at the time, “I thought I’d be launching this [Sean John women’s] earlier, but it took me a bit longer to launch Sean by Sean Combs. I think now is a great time to announce to the world that we’re going into production on this.”

Immediately prior to the agreement with G-III, there were signs of trouble for Sean by Sean Combs when Jenny La Fata, the brand’s vice president of design, left to become fashion director at Le Tigre. La Fata said then that there were no problems with the Sean by Sean Combs collection. She said she had left because “Le Tigre is more my style” and “it was not a great fit anymore.”

A replacement for La Fata was never named, but just two weeks ago, Combs told WWD that the internal design team was hard at work on the line.

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