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Designer Rickie Freeman knows how to shift her company to meet the needs of the marketplace. When she first launched her Teri Jon line in 1984, it was a suit-driven business before it morphed into special occasion dressing — the company’s current calling card — seven years ago. Now, Freeman is changing her five-year-old bridge line, Teri Jon Sport. Renamed Teri Jon Sportswear, it’s getting a contemporary boost for fall.

The collection, however, isn’t undergoing a complete makeover. “I don’t believe in revolution, I believe in evolution,” said the designer. “This is an evolution based on what the customer is telling us.”

This story first appeared in the April 23, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

To that end, her second line will stay within the bridge arena — and, more importantly, keep to a misses’ fit — but skew more directional in terms of design. “Women want to look younger and sexier. Nobody wants to be dated,” Freeman continued, perched behind a desk in her Garment District studio in Manhattan. “They want something a little closer to the body, but if they’re not contemporary fit and they don’t want that boxy look, then that’s where I come in.”

Of the punchier new lineup, which wholesales from $95 to $450, Freeman said: “The element of edge is absolutely there.” Slim pants feature bold zipper details, while jackets and tops are accented with 3-D sculpted rosettes, and tweeds come artily lacquered.

There are plays on textures and fabrics, too. A chic navy coat, for instance, comes cut from a bouclé that runs into a brocade. “She’s raised the bar with fabrications,” said Mark D’Angelo, the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing, noting that the collection will include leather and suede garments for the first time. Also new: an increased number of day dresses at the label, jumping from 3 to 15 percent of the offerings.

“The bridge customer doesn’t want to look like bridge from the Eighties and Nineties,” said D’Angelo. “The way she’s used to buying contemporary, she wants to find that now in the bridge world because that’s her next zone.”

The changes, he added, have been two years in the making. In 2008, the collection changed from the original Jon Sport moniker to Teri Jon Sport. “A lot of customers said to me, what is Jon?” said Freeman. “There was a little confusion.” She added that she also wanted to build on the brand recognition gained through her main Teri Jon label.

“In order for the bridge market to emerge and do well, they’ll have to go very modern,” said Freeman. “Why is the shoe and bag business so strong? Because they’re so innovative. Every season, there’s something new and special. We’re not dressing people to cover up their bodies, we’re there to give them a reason to go out and buy.”

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