A recent rainy Wednesday was “a very, very special day” for Mark Eisen, who was in town from South Africa to show the first season of his Karoo Mark Eisen knit collection. “I swear, I have waited such a long time for this.”
Four years, as a matter of fact. After a legal battle that began in 2001, Eisen finally won his name back in June from the business partners who ousted him from the company. Judging from the designer’s perma-grin today, the second time around is so much sweeter.
Armed with the lessons of bad experience, Eisen is now taking his time finding the right partners to back his signature collection; Karoo is a secondary line produced with licensee SML Group. For fall, the sweaters are unembellished, with a palette that runs the gamut of classics: navy, olive, camel, heathered oatmeal and gray. Still, the knitwear collection comes with a designer-level ethos. “The idea was to bring a new proportion to this market,” Eisen explained, “playing with elongated silhouettes and volume.”
True to his word, nearly every piece falls just below the hipbones, some even lower. Volume comes in the form of the softly bloused, tucked-under hem of a cardigan, and sleeves with flares that range from a light bell to a batwing. Elsewhere, the designer has added subtle details by combining knit textures and tweaking classic silhouettes. A crewneck, for instance, features a gentle ruching at the waistline.
Wholesale prices range from $65 for a V-neck cashmere and lambswool sweater to $220 for a blanket-like wrap cardigan. So far, retail reaction to the collection has been favorable. “I bought Mark’s line when I worked for Bergdorf,” says Intermix head buyer Sari Sloane. “I didn’t know what to expect from him now, but I went in and loved the collection. It’s the perfect combination of easy clothing, but one that’s very designed and cool.”
Bergdorf-Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Big Drop will also be launching the line.
For now, Eisen is dividing his time between New York and Cape Town. In fact, Karoo is named after an arid desert region in his native South Africa. “It’s the most beautiful place. It has a diamond-encrusted sky at night,” Eisen said. “It’s magical.”